News Feature

The Island
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, January 13, 2022
2022 brings more COVID-19 to the Island
The milder, but more contagious, omicron dominates

by Leslie Landrigan

The COVID-19 virus is spreading on the Island now that the highly contagious omicron variant is the dominant strain in Maine.

More than a hundred people on Deer Isle and possibly close to a hundred in Stonington have fallen sick with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The virus is everywhere on the Island,” said Walter Reed, assistant chief of the Memorial Ambulance Corps, in a Healthy Island Project meeting via Zoom on January 11.

Reed urged islanders to get vaccinated and, if they’re vaccinated, to get a booster shot. Though people who’ve been vaccinated can catch the virus, he said, the omicron variant causes a mild case in people who’ve gotten their shots.

The ambulance crew wears full personal protective equipment on every run these days because of the likelihood their patients have COVID-19, Reed said.

Vaccination clinic

Northern Light Home Care & Hospice will hold a COVID-19 vaccination clinic with Pfizer and Moderna vaccines at the Deer Isle Town Office on Thursday, January 20, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. for those age 5 and up. First time vaccinations and boosters will be available. For an appointment, contact Healthy Island Project at 367-6332 or email healthyislandproject@gmail.com for appointment. Walk-ins will also be welcome.

Omicron

Maine CDC acknowledged during the first week of January that the omicron variant now prevails in the state.

Hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients broke another record on January 10, with 403, but fell slightly to 395 the next day, according to Maine CDC. The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients is nearly double the number it was during last winter’s surge, when hospitalizations peaked at 205 in January.

Pool testing

Most of the Island’s high school and elementary school students are enrolled in pool testing, which is helping keep them in school, according to Jenna Billings, the School Union 76 nurse who runs the program.

Late last year, a positive case was not enrolled in the program, but 75 percent of the class is either fully vaccinated and/or enrolled in pool testing, Billings said in an email. That meant only a small number of students needed to quarantine, she said.

“Before we started pooled testing and the approval of vaccination for the 5- to 11-year-old group, we had a class that had to quarantine three times within a couple months, which is incredibly stressful for families,” she said.

Pool testing has its own challenges, though, according to Interim Superintendent Bob England. During the first week of January, some tests came back “inconclusive,” and the school had to follow up to find who, exactly, had the virus.

“What compounded the problem last week was the testing company got swamped with tests and did not get the results out in the normal 24-48 hours, so that led to delay, too,” England said in an email.

Home testing

Most other people have to drive off Island to get tested, as no Island retailers are now selling home-testing kits, said Rene Colson-Hudson, HIP executive director. Home-testing kits cost around $20.

The Island Employee Cooperative is trying to bring in a shipment of self-test kits, said Ben Pitts, chief operations officer, in a phone interview. Pitts said that the tests will be sold at The Galley, Burnt Cove Market and V&S Variety, if and when they come in.

Healthy Acadia is making free test kits available to people who ask for them, as long as supplies last. For information, visit healthyacadia.org or call 271-6023.