Despite a forty (40) percent increase in the number of MaineCDC employees who do contact tracing and are case investigators, Dr. Nirav Shah, Director of the MaineCDC, announced this afternoon that contact tracing will be more limited than it has been in the past. This change is because of the dramatically increasing number of COVID-19 cases the state has identified in recent days.
Dr. Shah reported that the number of positive cases in the testing realm has increased by 60% in the last few weeks. During the last seven day testing period, the rate is now up to 2.7%.- a slow increase, but still part of an upward trend that is occurring across the country. Dr. Shah said that since this past Friday, there have been 17 new outbreaks of the coronavirus. There has been an outbreak at the Barron Center, Portland, among the staff as part of the other sixteen outbreaks.
With the news of progress in the development of vaccines for the COVID-19, its distribution was a subject of interest. Commissioner Lambrew, Director of DHHS, said that work is on-going to make sure that the required cold storage is ready to receive vaccines. Dr. Shah has been in meetings with health care systems to determine who should be prioritized for vaccinations. “We don’t want bottlenecks in the distribution,” he said. Work is also being done “to establish vaccination sites in the spring sometime,” he added.
“Additional funding from the federal government is needed. The federal government has a bigger role to play here,” Dr. Shah said. Furthermore, the cost of the distribution of the vaccine is determined by the cold storage requirements. “The colder the storage needs, the more funding is required. The numbers turn almost entirely on cold storage requirements,” Dr. Shah said.
Dr. Shah urged holiday travelers to: Celebrate with family, only; Reduce risk of traveling for Thanksgiving; And limit the time of interactions with others. “There will be long-term consequences of the COVID-19,” he acknowledged.
The next scheduled MaineCDC briefing is set for Wednesday, November 25, at 2:00 pm. It may be viewed on Maine Public Television. Briefings are subject to change at the last moment.