The City of Portland has opened an additional shelter for clients needing quarantine space in light of positive COVID-19 cases. The quarantine space is located at the James A. Banks, Sr. Exposition Building. The City is working with the Maine Department of Health & Human Services and following its guidance to identify shelter guests who have potentially been exposed and need to stay in the quarantine space. The move to open the Expo is in response to a second shelter guest testing positive for COVID-19. Given the number of people who now need to be in quarantine because of potential exposure, the City no longer has enough spaces left at the quarantine and isolation spaces it has been running in its Family Shelter buildings.
In less than six hours on Tuesday, March 31, the City mobilized its limited staff and readied the Expo. Thirty-eight guests stayed there Tuesday night. Guests who stay at the Expo will be those who require quarantine space, but are not symptomatic. Those who have symptoms, are awaiting test results, or have tested positive will stay in isolation spaces the City is running in its Family Shelter buildings. It is important to keep the quarantine space and isolation spaces separate to reduce intermingling of the two populations.
In addition to running the Expo, the City continues to operate the Oxford Street Shelter, the Family Shelter for families, and the isolation shelter spaces located in some of the Family Shelter buildings despite City-wide staffing challenges in light of the pandemic.
The first positive case of a shelter guest involved a woman from Massachusetts who arrived in Maine on March 25 and stayed at the Oxford Street Shelter until March 28, at which point she was put in isolation space. The second case involves a male who arrived at the shelter on March 20 from San Francisco. He was put in quarantine on March 30 as he awaited his test results.
Given there are now two positive cases, both of whom were recently from out of state, the City Manager has asked the City Council to hold an emergency workshop tonight to discuss new policies for Oxford Street and the Family Shelter in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The City is struggling to get shelter guests to take the pandemic seriously. Some are not wanting to stay in quarantine spaces and are leaving when told not to. Some are leaving in between staff’s 30 minute checks.
The City would like to make the public aware that it discovered the woman who tested positive had left her quarantine space during one of its 30-minute checks yesterday afternoon. City staff immediately notified Maine CDC, Maine DHHS, and the Maine Department of Public Safety to seek their assistance in finding and detaining her as only the State has the authority to detain individuals during public health emergencies. City officials have worked cooperatively with these state agencies to locate this woman and ensure she remains in quarantine. The woman was located in Massachusetts by police late this morning and is being taken to a hospital in Boston.