York Hospital’s Infection Control team, headed by Evangeline Thibodeau, MD, infectious disease specialist, continues its efforts, in tandem with the Maine CDC, to move forward with the testing and investigation of a COVID-19 cluster at the Hospital’s main campus in York. The cluster, originally identified on December 6, consisted of four staff members working on the Hospital’s Inpatient Adult Health Care area. In total, thus far, we have had 36 staff members testing positive for Covid-19. The outbreak now extends to other services, all with relation to Inpatient Adult Health, and continues to be confined to the main building. While 14 patients have tested positive for Covid-19, either while still an inpatient or following discharge, due to the rise of community spread it is not clear if all cases have been acquired during their hospital admission.
“After our second round of universal testing in Adult Inpatient Health Care, we have continued to detect cases with evidence of transmission. However, through daily discussions with the CDC, we feel confident that with our continued tightening of infection control efforts over the past 10 days, this will diminish, said Dr. Thibodeau. “With only one newly diagnosed COVID-19 staff member overnight, the trajectory is a positive one. And while the majority of cases remain in one unit of the hospital, due to our small size and overlap in other departments, we are carefully watching, reacting, and testing any other service lines that may be affected.”
The CDC’s Dr. Stephen Sears and Field Epidemiologist, Kate Colby, MPH, are supporting the Hospital’s efforts to further tighten various hospital processes, which had already seen considerable restrictions as the pandemic continued to escalate throughout southern Maine. The cafeteria at York Hospital, already closed to the public and having discontinued all self-serve offerings as well as removing three quarters of its seating capacity, has now fully closed its “eat-in” dining option. It remains open to hospital staff for takeout and is fully operational for our patient population.
Additionally, the decision was made to postpone those elective surgeries which require inpatient admittance following the procedure. That will be assessed on a weekly basis. Please note that all ambulatory outpatient surgeries remain scheduled as planned. Restrictions mentioned in previous updates, such as visitor policies, entry screening, and masking remain in place until further notice.
New Respiratory Bay Offers Increased Safety and Efficiency
The addition of a Respiratory Bay, opened on Monday, December 6 adjacent to the Hospital’s ER, is now providing another option for isolating those patients arriving at the hospital with less severe COVID-19 symptoms. With employee re-allocation from the temporarily closed Kittery and Berwick Walk-Ins, we have dedicated, full-time ER/Walk-In providers and nursing staff available to assess and care for patients arriving with Covid-like symptoms. Patients may need IV fluids or nausea medication, and the Respiratory Bay provides the space to treat them more efficiently and in isolation.
“In addition to the climate control, real walls and floors, and negative pressure flow—amenities not present in the tents many hospitals used at the onset of the pandemic—the bay is directly connected to the ER. Therefore, should a patient arrive whose condition is more critical than anticipated, we can seamlessly move them into a treatment room, allowing for further assessment by the ER team,” said Medical Director of Emergency Services Dr. Jessica Stevens. The Respiratory Bay is also the designated location for infusion therapies, as we continue to advance our COVID-19 treatment capabilities for patients who are confirmed COVID-positive, and meet very specific criteria.
Although our work with Maine CDC is ongoing to identify any sources of infection and prevent further spread within the Hospital setting, differentiating patient exposures to healthcare workers versus community spread that may also be a contributing factor may not be entirely possible. We are confident that all appropriate measures are being taken to test staff and prevent further staff-to-staff transmission.
Moderna Vaccines Are Coming Soon to York Hospital
As York Hospital continues to navigate the fallout from COVID-19, we simultaneously plan toward eradicating the virus. Pending the emergency use authorization by the FDA, 800 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are expected to arrive as early as the week of December 21st. Our Infectious Disease, Quality and Pharmacy teams currently prepare for a distribution plan for our medical staff in high-risk positions. Although York Hospital has not yet received guidance on priority steps for public distribution, we eagerly await our continued role in the health and wellness of the communities we serve.
York Hospital continues its focus on providing a safe place for our patients to come for their healthcare needs. Additionally, we remain committed to providing the most recent and accurate information as it becomes available, in order to assist our community in making informed and essential healthcare choices for themselves and their families.