News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, June 25, 2020
After departure, Nautilus Island guests test positive for COVID-19
Also one employee, now in isolation

by Anne Berleant

The owner of Nautilus Island, Jem Huger, confirmed that several guests in one of two homes on his property tested positive for COVID-19 after recently returning to their home town, New Orleans. In addition, his boat man, who drove Huger’s boat from the island to Castine, also tested positive, and is currently isolating. All other staff members’ tests were negative, Huger said.

Town Manager Shawn Blodgett issued a public statement Wednesday, June 24, that stated, in part: “Though still not verified, it appears likely that the local area recently hosted visitors who are COVID-19 positive and that some Castine residents may have come into contact with them.”

Blodgett first became aware of the possible CVOID-19 situation on Tuesday, June 23, at 8:30 a.m., contacted Health Officer Ingrid Scott, and by 10:30 a.m., Maine Center for Disease Control was apprised of the information Blodgett had received.

“Today we’re following up with Maine CDC to see what, if any, action can be taken,” Blodgett said in a telephone call that preceded his statement.

Scott said currently there are no active cases reported in Castine.

Huger couldn’t confirm the number of guests who tested positive but said the infections originated in New Orleans and were confined to one house on the island occupied by teenagers. His son was among the young people to test positive, all of whose symptoms range from zero to mild.

“The minute of finding out [guests] had it, I had everyone tested,” and followed all Maine CDC guidelines, he said. “We want to do the right thing. We’re big supporters of the community. The community should be a little patient and understanding.”

He also couldn’t say whether any of his guests visited the mainland, stating: “We just didn’t go there. As a general rule, we just want to be left alone [on Nautilus Island].” He did say that he and his wife walked around Castine on two occasions, visiting only an art gallery, by invitation.

Scott and Blodgett both urged patience and caution. “I’d ask community members to remain calm, maintain social distancing, wear masks where social distancing isn’t possible, and wash your hands,” Blodgett said. “This most likely is not the last time this will happen.”

Calls and an email to Maine CDC were not returned by press time.