A Maine hospital saw a resurgence of coronavirus cases after months without a positive COVID-19 test after visitors to Acadia National Park learned they tested positive during a trip to the Pine Tree State.
“After several months without a positive COVID-19 test result, Mount Desert Island Hospital has resulted in three new cases in the last week and counseled others who have received a positive test result from another location,” Mount Desert Island Hospital, which serves the Bar Harbor community, including Acadia National Park, said on its website Friday.
“To date, we have received positive results for three Hancock County residents and five others. These five cases represent a mix of out of state and other counties in Maine,” the hospital added.
Visitors contacted the hospital seeking advice after they learned the COVID-19 tests they took in their home states prior to leaving for their Maine getaway were positive, according to a statement on the hospital website.
“We are receiving calls from visitors (both tourists and family members of area residents) who were tested before traveling and only received positive results after their arrival here, and these visitors’ test results are not captured by current reporting requirements.”
“It has come to our attention that there are unreported cases in our community due to the current system design for reporting at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” hospital officials added in the release.
“Without quicker testing, these sorts of problems are likely to become more widespread,” Jeremy Youde, who studies the intersection of government and public health at the University of Minnesota Duluth, told the Portland Press Herald. Public health experts blame delayed test results, due to inundated labs from the surge in cases in the South and Southwest, according to the article.
“That’s quite a dilemma,” epidemiologist and former staffer for the CDC, Dr. Peter Millard, told the local news outlet.
“When somebody has a positive test in, say, Georgia, there is no way that the people in Georgia would know that person went to Maine, so it’s not like they can forward it to officials here,” Millard, now the medical director at Seaport Community Health Care in Belfast, added.
“To address this, MDI Hospital’s COVID-19 team is providing counseling and contact tracing assistance when we receive these calls — but there is currently no mechanism to alert us when a positive result is received by a visitor in our community if they do not reach out to us,” according to the hospital’s statement.
The hospital system said it is now conducting workforce testing on asymptomatic “front-facing” tourism employees to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. The pilot program is partnered with the Downeast COVID-19 Task Force.
“The goal of the program is to detect any potential COVID-19 outbreaks as early as possible, which will not only protect front-facing tourism employees but help limit exposure for the entire community,” the hospital said, adding that “any positive results from this pilot will be included in the case count on our website.”
The CDC offers guidelines for tourists leaving their home state on its website. The federal health agency suggests tourists should “check the state or local health department where you are, along your route, and at your planned destination. While you are traveling, it is possible a state or local government may put into place travel restrictions, such as stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders, mandated quarantines upon arrival, or even state border closures. Plan to keep checking for updates as you travel.”