PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The surge of coronavirus cases in Maine has necessitated changes to the state's contact tracing protocols, the state's top public health officials said Monday.
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention will no longer be able to keep in touch with individuals who test positive for the coronavirus over the course of their illness, said Dr. Nirav Shah, the agency's executive director. There will instead be only one point of contact with infected individuals, he said.
The change is a result of the aggressive spread of the virus in the state, which has experienced a fall surge similar to the one felt around the country, Shah said. Maine CDC will continue to make sure infected individuals have the tools to isolate safely, and conduct an investigation into who they might have been exposed to, he said.
“In a pandemic there are no easy choices, just choices that are hard and harder,” Shah said. “Our goal, however, has always been to help the most number of people in the most number of ways.”
Shah also repeated a call from state health authorities to keep Thanksgiving gatherings small, local and socially distanced this fall.
In other pandemic news in Maine:
The latest average positivity rate in Maine is 2.32%. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Maine the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test specimens using data from The COVID Tracking Project.
The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 1.85% on Nov. 8 to 2.32% on Nov. 22.
Maine has reported more than 10,500 cases of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. It has also reported 177 deaths.
The University of Maine System is in the midst of an effort it called “safe departure testing” to avoid sending students home for Thanksgiving with the coronavirus.
The goal of the effort is to avoid sending home students who might be infected but are not showing symptoms, system Chancellor Dannel Malloy said. The system has 5,000 test results in hand and is working to isolate 31 cases of the coronavirus that would have gone undetected without the effort, he said.
“We want all of our students home with their families as soon as they are cleared to travel, but we have made plans to support isolating students with extra care and comfort through the Thanksgiving holiday,” Molloy said.
The UMaine System, which has more than 30,000 students, faculty and staff, has a total of 80 known cases of the coronavirus at the moment, the system said in a statement. The people who tested positive are in public health isolate, the system said.