Governor Janet Mills announced May 26 that the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is significantly expanding contact tracing by increasing the number of skilled staff and volunteers, harnessing technology, and securing social services for those in need of help to maintain self-isolation.
Contact tracing is the process of identifying, assessing, and protecting people who have been exposed to a disease to prevent their transmitting infection to others. Taken together, testing and contract tracing enable Maine to identify, investigate, and isolate individuals with COVID-19 to prevent its spread in the absence of effective treatment or a vaccine.
“Some of our communities have more acutely experienced the impacts of COVID-19, and we are stepping up needed supports for people isolated or quarantined due to exposure to the virus,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew.
Maine’s updated contact tracing strategy has three components:
- Increasing Personnel: The Maine CDC currently has a contact tracing and case investigation team of approximately 30 people. It expects to more than quadruple this team. Hiring will include those with proficiency in multiple languages.
- Deploying Sara Alert System: The Sara Alert system allows individuals who have been diagnosed or potentially exposed to COVID-19 to report daily symptoms through web, text, email, or calls. The system will include language translations for non-English speaking individuals.
- Expanding Social Supports: DHHS is expanding its social supports for people isolated or quarantined because of exposure to COVID-19. Arrangements will offer individuals in isolation or quarantine social supports such as delivered meals, prescriptions, and behavioral health counseling, as needed. DHHS will engage Catholic Charities, which operates the State’s refugee program, to help with language translation for non-English speakers, and will contract with Wabanaki Public Health for support for Native Americans. Maine DHHS will assign a point person to coordinate this work statewide.
2109 individuals have tested positive for COVID-19 in Maine as of May 26. Of those cases, 489 are among health care workers, 35.8% is over the age of 60, and women outnumber men slightly. 60 people are currently hospitalized, 26 are in intensive care units, and 13 are on ventilators. When county data was last updated on the CDC website – almost one week ago – 1056 cases were from Cumberland County; 359 from York County; 247 cases were from Androscoggin County. 79 individuals have died in Maine.