Web exclusive, March 17, 2020
Drive-up testing for COVID-19 now in Stonington, Castine
Blue Hill hospital, local clinics on lockdown
by Leslie Landrigan
People with symptoms of the COVID-19 coronavirus can now get tested at the Northern Light Health Center in Castine and the Northern Light Island Medical Center in Stonington.
Dr. Michael Murnik, a doctor at Blue Hill Family Medicine, in a March 17 phone interview said people can call ahead for a screening, and if they have symptoms, they will be directed to drive to the clinic parking lot. There they will see a phone number on a sign, which they can call, and a staff member in protective garb will come out and administer the test.
“It’s not just drive up like [it’s] a lemonade stand and get your nose swabbed,” Murnik said, adding that nurses will carefully screen people before letting them get tested.
The test, said Murnik, is a Q-tip up the nose for the COVID-19 virus, then a second Q-tip for flu and other illnesses. Test results will come back in 24 to 48 hours, he said.
Northern Light Blue Hill Hospital has also set up a tent in its parking lot with the expectation that drive-up testing for COVID-19 coronavirus will begin soon.
The Blue Hill hospital, along with Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital, are in lockdown, as is the Island Nursing Home. Most visitors are not allowed, and the health system is canceling appointments and postponing elective surgeries to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, said Dr. James Jarvis, senior physician executive at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in a video conference on March 16.
The first person in the state of Maine tested positive on March 12, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That made Maine the last state in New England to have had no positive tests for COVID-19. By March 17, Maine CDC reported 23 confirmed cases and nine presumptive positive cases. Presumptive positive cases are those tested at the Maine Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory (HETL Lab).
Jarvis said Northern Light currently has enough staff and equipment to handle the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Right now we are staffed and ready,” he said, though he said he’s concerned about potential staff shortages.
Jarvis also said the test doesn’t work on people who don’t show symptoms.
“Eventually, however, people may be tested even if they don’t show symptoms,” Murnik said.
To limit the spread of the disease, Jarvis recommends staying six feet away from other people and washing hands frequently and for 40 seconds, rather than the 20 seconds widely recommended in the past few weeks.