The Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention is investigating COVID-19 outbreaks at 26 long-term care facilities in the state, including Woodlands Senior Living in Waterville, shown in 2019. File photo by Niko Hample

WATERVILLE — The Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention is investigating COVID-19 outbreaks at 26 long-term care facilities across the state, including one complex in Waterville.

A COVID-19 outbreak at such facilities is when five or more people test positive, according to the CDC.

Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah noted Thursday that the coronavirus is still here and “it’s not going away.”

“That’s why it is so important for each of us to take steps to limit the risk for our most vulnerable neighbors, including loved ones who live in long-term care facilities,” he said. “The arrival of the new bivalent boosters in Maine provides each of us with an additional way to help protect community members most at risk of hospitalization or death.”

Maine CDC spokesman Robert Long said in an email Thursday that the CDC has open, ongoing investigations at the 26 care centers. He confirmed that number includes an outbreak at Woodlands Senior Living in Waterville.

“Maine CDC has an open COVID-19 outbreak investigation associated with the Woodlands in Waterville,” Long said. “As of this morning, the outbreak involved cases among 27 residents and four staff.”


Matthew Walters, one of the owners of several Woodlands care facilities in Maine, said in a phone interview that the outbreak is spread over three settings at the 147 West River Road complex: assisted living, memory care and the senior apartments known as Park Residences. In total there are more than 124 residents at the Woodlands in Waterville. The outbreak occurred over the last three or four weeks, he said.

“Any time that we have more than five confirmed cases, we notify CDC,” Walters said. “We send them a line listing twice a week of the number of people.”

When an outbreak occurs, residents who test positive must quarantine in their rooms and their food is delivered to them. Staff entering their rooms wear personal protective equipment including gowns, N95 masks and gloves, and test residents four times a week, according to Walters.

The facilities are not locked down, as was typical at the beginning of the pandemic when there were no vaccines or treatment, according to Walters, who said he does not consider the current outbreak an acute one. Now, when people are diagnosed with COVID-19, few are hospitalized and most are easily treated, he said.

“It certainly doesn’t create the level of anxiety that it did before,” he said.

Walters and his family own 15 separate, licensed facilities in Maine at 10 locations and currently are building one in Bridgeton that is scheduled to open Nov. 1, he said.


Residents confined to their rooms have their vitals checked more frequently than usual, and they are given activity packets that were developed during the pandemic, according Walters. He acknowledged it is challenging for both residents and staff alike.

“Also, we have really strict pre-staff protocols,” he said. “They have to check in and answer questions around symptoms and close contacts.”

Staffing can be limited based on whether they have cold-like symptoms and so forth, according to Walters.

“It definitely just has that level of caution which is obviously necessary. It does factor into the number of staffing on any given day. Fortunately over the last month we’ve had a limited number of staff test positive.”

Whitney Draper, an assisted living resident at the Woodlands in Waterville, said in a phone interview Thursday that when he tested positive for COVID-19 about two weeks ago he had no symptoms, but he and other residents who tested positive had to stay in their rooms for about a week and food was brought to them.

“It’s very hard on residents because you stay in your room for a whole week,” said Draper, 70. “The residents are, unfortunately, the ones who are kept from going anywhere. They’re cooped up.”


Draper, who has lived there about five years, said he now is able to walk in the hallways but must wear a mask and stay 6 feet away from others.

The dining room remains closed, according to Draper, who said if he wants to go somewhere, he has to find his own transportation because rides are not being offered during the outbreak, which also has been hard on staff, he said.

“If you’re working 3 to 11 p.m. and that would be a CNA (certified nursing assistant) or medical tech, if the person who is supposed to come in after you calls in sick, you have to work a double shift,” Draper said.

Walters said visitors are still allowed into the facility.

“It’s not locked down anymore which is very helpful for the residents and family members,” he said.

He noted the pandemic is not over.

“It’s not even close,” he said. “The difference is how it’s being managed and by that I mean we’re not locking our doors. People can still come and go. You try to quarantine and protect people that have it and otherwise, you work hard to keep everything as normal as possible.”

Angela Westhoff, president and CEO of the Maine Health Care Association, whose membership includes more than 200 nursing homes and assisted living-residential care facilities in the state, said such operations continue to face unprecedented staffing shortages.

“In fact, they were the most heavily affected sector of health care during the pandemic,” Westhoff said Thursday in an email. “The staffing crisis coupled with COVID-19 has long lasting and far-reaching effects on Maine’s long-term care facilities. No one could have predicted the scope and duration of this public health emergency that has left long-term care providers on a long road to recovery.”

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