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DHHS office closes after worker tests positive for COVID-19

By Stephen Betts | Apr 05, 2020
Photo by: Jacquelyn Betts The entrance to the Maine DHHS Office in Rockland.

Rockland — The Maine Department of Health and Human Services announced its regional office in Rockland will close Monday after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.

DHHS was informed of the test result April 5 and notified employees of the Rockland office. The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention is identifying people in close contact with this employee and advising them on appropriate precautions, including whether testing is necessary.

The DHHS office is located at the Breakwater Marketplace on Camden Street.

DHHS said the employee last worked outside of the DHHS office nearly two weeks ago. The worker did not visit clients at their homes nor engaged with the public in the Rockland office. DHHS said in a news release that it is limited in releasing further information about the case, but wishes the person a speedy recovery.

The employee was last at the building March 25 and did not use the public bathrooms nor the elevator, according to a source.

As of April 5, the Maine CDC said there are seven active cases of COVID-19 involving Knox County residents. The residence of the DHHS employee was not released.

DHHS said out of an abundance of caution, the Rockland office will close April 6 to allow thorough cleaning and sanitizing per guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Due to recent actions taken by DHHS to limit the number of people in its buildings to prevent COVID-19, only about 20 employees were working out of the DHHS Rockland office as of last week.

In order to continue providing critical benefits and services to Mainers, the DHHS office is expected to reopen Tuesday with appropriate physical distancing measures in place, the state agency said.

In line with guidance from the CDC, DHHS limited interactions with the public to accepting paperwork for drop-off. The Department's regional offices are open to the public only for paperwork drop-offs from 9 to 11 a.m. and from 1 to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Clients have been encouraged to fill out and submit applications and reviews for programs, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and MaineCare online through MyMaineConnection.

Paperwork may be submitted via fax, email or postal carrier. Clients must sign-up for paperless noticing through MyMaineConnection to decrease delays in delivery of critical benefit updates.

Individuals may also call the toll-free number at 1 (855) 797-4357 for assistance, agents are available from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Most DHHS staff are now working remotely, as part of Gov. Mills administration's response to COVID-19. The Department of Administrative and Financial Services estimated approximately 70% of State employees - excluding emergency, hospital and crisis, and public safety personnel - are currently working remotely.

Gov. Mills urges Mainers to avail themselves of the state's online services and resources during this public health emergency.

Two doctors at Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport and one employee from the Bolduc Correctional Center in Warren have been confirmed over the past two weeks of having COVID-19.

There have been nine cases since the outbreak of Knox County residents with the new virus and two have recovered. May others, however, have not been tested.

The DHHS offices in Lewiston have been closed twice in the past few weeks because of COVID-19.

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