Maine CDC revises how it conducts COVID-19 probable case investigations

Thu, 11/19/2020 - 9:45am

    AUGUSTA —The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) announced Thursday revisions to the way it investigates probable cases of COVID-19.

    The change reflects the likely increase in individuals experiencing flu-like symptoms related to onset of cold/influenza season amid widespread community transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19, according to a news release, and is designed to make the best use of available resources to protect the health of Maine people.

    Going forward, Maine CDC will investigate probable cases of COVID-19 only in individuals with a positive laboratory result.

    This change means that Maine CDC will no longer investigate symptomatic close contacts of COVID-19 cases as probable cases, unless they receive a positive test result, the release said.

    Individuals who may have been exposed and are experiencing symptoms should seek testing. And while awaiting test results, people with symptoms should stay home and avoid all public interaction. Anyone who believes they have been exposed to the virus should immediately begin quarantining.

    People who receive positive results through antigen testing will continue to be considered probable cases, and Maine CDC will investigate those cases.

    Over 20 states, per the release, do not report any probable cases, including New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and New York.

    “The symptoms of influenza resemble those of COVID-19. As influenza rates increase in the coming weeks, many individuals who were in close contact with someone with COVID-19 may develop symptoms, but those symptoms may be from influenza or a cold, not necessarily COVID-19. Today’s adjustment ensures that all available COVID-19 response resources can be focused on lab-positive cases,” said Dr. Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine CDC. “This change will likely result in fewer reported probable cases each day, but this is not an indication that the risk has lessened.”

    Because of the recent, significant, increase in COVID-19 cases, Maine CDC may no longer be able to contact individuals within 24 hours of a positive result.

    Individuals who have a positive result should take the following steps while they await a call from Maine CDC:

    • Isolate immediately. This means no contact with others, and no travel outside the household except for medical care. Isolation lasts for a minimum of 10 days after symptoms start.

    • If you are employed, notify your employer that you are in isolation and cannot physically go to work.

    • Notify close contacts of their exposure and recommend they get tested.

    • Call your health care provider with any medical questions.

    In response to the recent increase in cases, Maine CDC recently redeployed more than 25 staff to work on case investigations and contact tracing. Additional staff are being trained, and hiring for case investigation and contact tracing positions is ongoing. Approximately 20 Maine National Guard members are in the process of joining the case investigation and contact tracing teams. At present, more than 130 people are involved in COVID-19 case investigations and contact tracing, and that number will increase each week as additional staff complete training.

    Maine CDC continues to use the Sara Alert system for ongoing contact tracing. As of November 12, a total of 17,854 close contacts had been enrolled.

    “We expect this volume of cases to continue, and these changes reflect epidemiological best practices for response to widespread community transmission,” said Dr. Shah. “The risk of exposure throughout the state remains high, so it's important that Maine people wear face coverings in public, stay at least 6 feet apart, avoid non-essential gatherings, and get a flu shot.”