Sarah Pratt, a Community Concepts Wellness shelter attendant, marks the start of the meal line at the Lewiston Armory in April. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file photo Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — The emergency homeless shelter at the Lewiston Armory will begin taking new guests Friday after all pending COVID-19 tests came back negative.

Shelter officials had temporarily halted new intakes at the 24-hour shelter while awaiting test results this week for several individuals known to have come in contact with the shelter’s first positive case.

A former shelter guest was confirmed positive for the virus May 3 after having been discharged from the shelter April 30.

Officials from Community Concepts, which is managing the shelter, said Wednesday that the individual did not pass a twice-daily temperature check and was not allowed back in the building pending a test.

Since then, following CDC protocols, the organization worked to identify anyone who had come in contact with the individual, and transported them to a Preble Street quarantine shelter in Portland.

On Friday, Community Concepts issued a news release stating “all test results received for that group of individuals has been negative for the virus and all remain asymptomatic in quarantine.”

“Thanks to the quick and decisive actions of our staff, as well as support from the Maine CDC and local health providers, any risk of exposure to our guests, staff and the greater community is very low,” Shawn Yardley, CEO of Community Concepts, said.

Yardley told the Sun Journal earlier this week that shelter guests have a twice-daily health screening, and receive masks upon arrival.

If more positive cases are found, he said it may be encouraged that the shelter conduct universal testing, if the tests are available. During Wednesday’s daily CDC briefing, Dr. Nirav Shah reported that the shelter was not considered an outbreak.

“Anyone in our community can be exposed to the virus,” Mayor Mark Cayer said. “Fortunately, the twice-daily health screenings at the shelter determined an individual was at-risk and was directed to get testing. Without that knowledge and support, this person would have been at much greater risk, not only to themselves, but to the community.”

The 60-bed shelter has been operating near capacity since last week, with Yardley stating Wednesday that the guest population has been hovering between 50 and 55 people.

The shelter is expected to operate until at least June 30.


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