LEWISTON — Officials at the city’s two medical centers are taking precautions as COVID-19 makes a resurgence this summer.

St. Mary’s Health System has seen a small increase in hospitalizations in the past couple of weeks but “no real surge,” according to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Douglas Smith.

Central Maine Medical Center has seen an increase in cases among its team members due to community exposures but it has not experienced an uptick in hospitalizations, according to Director of Infection Prevention Joanne Kenny-Lynch.  Most infections have not been serious enough to warrant hospitalization, she said.

St. Mary’s has started reinforcing policies around when staff should come to work with symptoms, Smith said. It is encouraging people to get boosters when available and reinforcing the use of proper personal protective equipment, such as masks.

It is also working to properly isolate patients suspected of having the virus, stocking up on adequate personal protective equipment supplies and monitoring data on all community levels, he said.

Central Maine is working with its infection prevention team, hospital epidemiologist and Maine CDC staff to decide when it may need to go back to mandatory masking in certain high-risk areas, according to Chief Medical Officer John Alexander. It is also developing a plan to encourage team members and community members to get immunizations against COVID-19, including the latest booster, along with promoting its annual influenza campaign.

On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration announced approval of updated Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines to better protect against the Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5, according to an FDA news release. People ages 5 and older are eligible to receive a single dose of the updated vaccines, regardless of how many vaccinations they have, according to the press release.

Previously vaccinated children 6 months to 4 years old are eligible to receive one or two doses of the updated vaccine, depending on when they last received a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the release. Unvaccinated children in this age group are eligible to receive three doses of the updated vaccine.

Lewiston has seen a few of COVID-19 cases in its schools but nothing that causes great concern for Superintendent Jake Langlais, he said.

Not many Auburn students have been absent due to COVID-19, Superintendent Cornelia Brown said.

COVID-19 vaccinations are not required for children to attend school.

Though there is no policy or law mandating how the schools must handle students and staff who test positive for the coronavirus, Lewiston schools will ask people to monitor their symptoms and consider CDC guidelines, and parents should reach out to their child’s school nurse if they need further guidance, Langlais said.

Auburn schools are also following CDC protocols in response to the virus this year, Brown said. Each of the city’s schools has a health care professional who she encourages parents to talk to if they have questions.

If someone tests positive for COVID-19, the CDC recommends people isolate from others for at least five days. People are encouraged to end isolation after the fifth day if they had no symptoms or if symptoms are improving and people are fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication.

If symptoms are not improving, people should continue to isolate, according to CDC recommendations. People who experience moderate illness, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, or severe illness, should isolate for 10 days. People with severe illness should consult their doctors before ending isolation.

Langlais does not envision implementing masking or quarantine requirements but will continue to monitor the situation, he said. Though the virus is still a serious concern for some in the community, he saideveryone must learn to live with it because he does not foresee it ever going away.

“We need to just be mindful of being smart to live with it,” he said.

Flu and COVID-19 symptoms can present themselves in a similar fashion, according to Kenny-Lynch with Central Maine Medical Center. Vaccination is key in helping prevent spreading both viruses.

“Vaccination is effective in preventing serious illness and death, as well as strains on the health care system,” she said.

St. Mary’s is encouraging people to “strongly consider” COVID-19 vaccine boosters, Smith said. “They are proven to reduce the risk of admission and severe illness.” He cautions people to be careful about who they are around if they have cold, flu or COVID-19 symptoms, and to test for the virus at home.

To prevent catching and transmitting COVID-19, Central Maine recommends diligently washing hands when people move through different environments and avoid touching their eyes, mouth and nose with their hands, Kenny-Lynch said. She also recommends wearing masks in public spaces, testing for the virus at home and staying home if they are not feeling well.

A person can spread COVID-19 for up to 10 days, so Kenny-Lynch recommends people wear a mask for a full 10 days after symptoms begin, she said.

For more information about COVID-19 visit cdc.gov/coronavirus.

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