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Three schools closed for cleaning

Three people in RSU 71 test positive for COVID-19

Possible connection to church outbreak
By Kendra Caruso | Oct 20, 2020
Courtesy of: Servpro of Belfast/Camden/Rockland Local Servpro franchise owner Bill Frysinger, dressed in PPE, prepares gear for sanitizing classrooms and other areas in a COVID cleanup at Troy Howard Middle School Oct. 19.

Belfast — Regional School Unit 71 announced its first case of the coronavirus Friday, Oct. 16, at Capt. Albert W. Stevens School. Since then, the district has identified two other cases, one at Ames Elementary School in Searsmont and another at Troy Howard Middle School.

District Superintendent Mary Alice McLean said the positive cases in the district appear to be connected to an outbreak at Brooks Pentecostal Church identified by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Oct. 17. A presumed positive case at CASS, which would have been the school's second case, came back negative, McLean said in an Oct. 20 email.

The district closed THMS for two days of cleaning Monday and Tuesday, and closed Ames until Nov. 2. Initially, CASS students returned to school Tuesday, but were dismissed early and the school was also closed for two days. Only one district bus route was affected, according to the superintendent.

Servpro of Belfast/Camden/Rockland finished cleaning and sanitizing six classrooms and one office at THMS Monday, McLean said. Local Servpro franchise owner Bill Frysinger said his business has been called upon before to sanitize buildings affected by the coronavirus.

He said Servpro's corporate office has a full-time Ph.D. chemist to track the best disinfectants against the virus. Corporate management hands down sanitization and cleaning guidelines for each franchise location to follow.

The company does an initial sanitization, then cleans dirt and soil from surfaces before doing another level of sanitization, Frysinger said. Employees cover high-touch areas from doorknobs to walls up to 8 feet.

Each facility is slightly different, so Servpro's approach to sanitization is to first locate the high-risk areas with a client, then develop a service plan, he said.

Most facilities the company cleans have been vacated for several days, so cleaners usually do not need to use an air scrubber to circulate stagnant air that might have been affected, he said. But that is a tool available to them if necessary.

The school has its own electrostatic fogging machine, according to McLean, which helps coat oddly shaped surfaces or reach difficult areas to disinfect them.

Frysinger said his business is licensed through the state as a pesticide applicator, which is the certification cleaning businesses must have to be able to apply disinfectants.

Students and faculty in two CASS classrooms and two THMS homerooms and classes are required to be tested and remain in quarantine for two weeks of remote learning, McLean said.

Amber is the mother of a child who was in contact with the infected individual at CASS. She has up to seven days to have her child tested for the coronavirus.

She said she does not know how to feel about the announcement yet, but is a little angry and nervous about the situation in general. "So my head was just spinning all afternoon. I was just kind of nervous. ... I did a lot more cleaning than I usually do," she said about her reaction to getting a call from a school nurse informing her of the situation at about 2 p.m. Friday.

Amber said the district is handling the situation the best it can and sometimes people get infected even when they take precautions. But she is frustrated that there are people who refuse to wear masks to decrease the spread of the virus.

If her child tests positive for the coronavirus, Amber will have to keep the child out of school longer than two weeks, until the virus is better controlled in the school and county. But that would mean adjusting her work situation so her child could stay home to do remote learning — something she is not currently financially prepared to do.

She said she implores people to wear a mask, because it is still possible to contract the virus, despite the relatively low infection rates statewide. "If they don't want to wear a mask, they should just stay home," she said. "Nobody wants to get sick or get this virus ... they think it's not going to happen to them."

Annie Cunningham has a child who attends CASS, but was not in direct contact with the infected person. She said she has been anxious thinking about the possibility of her child being exposed to the virus after Maine CDC reported an uptick in new Waldo County cases.

"It's scary for us to get the news today — the same day as 11 new cases just popped up," she said Oct. 16.

Maine CDC published an update Oct. 19, reporting the number of new cases associated with the outbreak at the Brooks church had risen to 32. As of Tuesday, Oct. 20, there were no cases tied to the infected individuals at any of the schools, McLean wrote in an email.

Capt. Albert W. Stevens School, where someone tested positive for the coronavirus Oct. 16. (Source: File Photo)
Local Servpro sanitization crew members, dressed in PPE, head into Troy Howard Middle School Oct. 19. (Courtesy of: Servpro of Belfast/Camden/Rockland)
(Courtesy of: Servpro of Belfast/Camden/Rockland)
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