Maine continues breaking daily coronavirus case records, with 427 new positive tests reported by the state's Center for Control and Prevention on Monday, when the agency's director announced a change to how it will investigate new cases.
The Maine CDC will no longer conduct contact tracing investigations for every person who tests positive for COVID-19, said Dr. Nirav Shah, its director.
“The sustained increase in numbers of new cases and new daily lab reports has outpace Maine CDC’s ability to continue the approach that has taken us where we are right now,” Shah said in a virtual news conference Monday.
Every person who tested positive for the virus had received a notification from Maine CDC, but now only people in certain age or higher-risk groups will be receive full case investigations, including people who are 18 and younger, 65 and older, people identified as health care workers and people who are hospitalized.
Shah asked people who do not meet those criteria but do test positive to take it upon themselves to isolate and notify people whom they have come in contact with “as soon as [they] can” so people affected can seek tests and treatment.
The growing case burden in the state required Maine to redirect resources to people who face the heaviest risks, Shah said.
“Maine finds itself in the position of a very busy, crowded emergency room,” he said. “Just like an emergency room, we have to take our available resources and make sure we are addressing the people with the greatest needs.”
Maine's leaders were already trying to keep up with the virus’ spread by modifying plans and restrictions.
On Friday, Gov. Janet Mills extended an early closure mandate for businesses. Until Jan. 3, places like restaurants, bars, casinos, movie theaters and social clubs must close by 9 p.m. That order had previously been set to expire over the past weekend.
The daily number of new cases of the coronavirus reached a new high Monday as the state continued to battle the spread of COVID-19.
The seven-day rolling average rose to 291 on Monday, about double the number from a month ago.
The daily number topped 400 for the first time — hitting 427 — but no new deaths were reported, the Maine Center for Disease Control reported. The previous daily record was 349 new cases on Dec. 2.
Health officials have warned Mainers that “forceful and widespread” community transmission is occurring across Maine.
The positivity rate is also rising in the state. The latest average positivity rate in Maine is 2.53%. 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 2.32% on Nov. 22 to 2.53% on Dec. 6.
Nevertheless, Maine could be in a worse position -- its positivity rate is less than half the national average.
Mills announced on Saturday she had tested negative for the coronavirus after being exposed to it by a member of her security detail.
“Masks work! And I’m proof,” Mills said in a statement.