Maine to beef up contact tracing as virus cases top 2,100

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine officials said Thursday the state will step up its contact tracing capacities with more staff in an effort get a better handle on the coronavirus pandemic.

The office of Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, said the Maine Department of Health and Human Services is “significantly expanding” tracing efforts by increasing the number of staff and volunteers working on them. The state will also use new technology as part of the effort, and ensure social services that assist infected people with self isolating.

The expanded tracing comes after the state has dramatically grown its capacity for testing. Federal funds are paying for the increase in tracing, said Jeanne Lambrew, the state health and human services commissioner.

Lambrew called the expanded testing and tracing “parallel advances” that are “key to protecting the health and well-being of Maine people in the face of this pandemic.”

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has about 30 people working on contact tracing and investigating cases. That number will more than quadruple, state officials said Tuesday.

In other news related to the virus:

THE NUMBERS

Maine has topped 2,100 cases of the virus, state officials said Tuesday. An additional person died, bringing the death total for the state to 79.

The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms in most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or those with existing health problems.

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CARE HOME OUTBREAK

One of Maine’s largest coronavirus outbreaks — at a care home for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease — continues to grow.

The outbreak at Cape Memory Care in Cape Elizabeth began with one case a week ago and grew to 67 confirmed cases and one probable case as of Monday. The number includes 20 staff members. One person has died, state officials said Tuesday.

Everyone at Cape Memory Care is being tested. Some residents who tested positive have been moved to other care homes.

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SOME CAMPS CANCEL

Some summer camps have decided to cancel their season, but others are finding a way to operate under new rules designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, a newspaper reported Tuesday.

Day camps for Maine children are allowed to open June 1, while overnight camps can open on July 1. Out-of-state campers are required to quarantine, the Portland Press Herald reported.

So far, about 14 camps decided to cancel their season after seeing the new guidelines or in anticipation of them, Ron Hall, executive director of Maine Summer Camps, told the newspaper. The state has about 270 summer camps.

The guidelines for overnight camps would limit the size of gatherings, segregate campers into groups and require health screenings.

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LAW ENFORCEMENT AID

Maine’s U.S. senators announced close to $4 million in federal funding for the state Department of Public Safety and cities and towns on Tuesday.

Sens. Susan Collins, a Republican, and Angus King, an independent, said the money will help pay for overtime, equipment, hiring, supplies and other necessities that have been under pressure during the pandemic.

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DELAYED CARE

More than 40% of adults in Maine have delayed medical care since the start of the pandemic in mid-March, according to a survey by the Census Bureau.

Routine and elective medical procedures were allowed to resume May 1, but there have been backlogs since then.

There were other factors for delaying care. Mainers delayed care to avoid being exposed to the virus at health care facilities, while some had an inability to pay after being laid off or furloughed.

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