Maine CDC Press Release

September 20, 2022

Browntail Moth Hairs Pose a Risk for Fall Outdoor Activities

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC), Maine Forest Service (MFS), and 211 Maine remind Maine people and visitors about how to protect themselves from browntail moth hairs this fall.

Hairs from browntail moth caterpillars can get stirred up during fall yardwork. These tiny hairs can cause a skin reaction similar to poison ivy. They can also cause trouble breathing and other respiratory problems. People in all 16 Maine counties are at some risk of exposure to browntail moth hairs.

Browntail moth caterpillars grow and shed these hairs from April to late June or early July. The hairs remain toxic in the environment for up to three years. Hairs blow around in the air and fall onto leaves and brush. Mowing, raking, sweeping, and other activities can cause the hairs to become airborne and cause skin and breathing problems.

Most people affected by the hairs develop a localized rash that lasts for a few hours up to several days. In some people, the rash can be severe and last for weeks. Hairs may also cause trouble breathing in some people, which may result in respiratory distress. Treatment for the rash or breathing problems caused by browntail moth hairs focuses on relieving symptoms.

To reduce exposure to browntail moth hairs while working outdoors:

  • If possible, do yardwork when leaves are wet to prevent hairs from becoming airborne.
    • Do not rake, use leaf blowers, or mow the lawn on dry days.
    • Do not dry laundry outside where hairs can cling to clothing.
  • Cover your face and any exposed skin by wearing: a long sleeve shirt, long pants, goggles, a respirator/dust mask, a hat, and a disposable coverall.
    • Secure clothing around the neck, wrists, and ankles.
  • Apply pre-contact poison ivy wipes to help reduce hairs sticking into exposed skin.
  • Take a cool shower to wash off loose hairs.
  • Change clothes after outdoor activities.
  • Use extra caution when bringing in items stored outdoors, such as firewood, or working in areas sheltered from the rain, such as under decks.

For more information:

September 22, 2022

DHHS Issuing $11 Million to Support Services for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

AUGUSTA— The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is issuing $11 million this month to providers of home and community-based services (HCBS) in the latest round of support to help Maine people living with disabilities remain in their communities.

The funding, provided through two complementary payments under the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), is part of the Department’s HCBS Improvement Plan (PDF) to increase access to high-quality services.

“My Administration is committed to supporting the independence of Maine people living with disabilities and this additional round of funding will help to ensure they can continue to live in the homes and communities they love,” said Governor Mills. “This funding will also support the direct care workers who dedicate themselves to providing around the clock, high quality care to people across the state. My Administration will continue to do all we can to support our community providers and the people they serve.”

“Maine designed and secured federal approval for this latest round of funding to accelerate the recovery of home and community-based service providers from the pandemic and to help advance the health, independence, and well-being of Maine people living with disabilities,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “This latest round of funding is also in recognition of the valuable work of direct support workers who provide compassionate and high-quality care that enriches lives in homes and communities throughout Maine.”

“Our network of providers and direct support professionals continue to face severe staff shortages and increased costs due to both overtime pay and inflation,” said Laura Cordes, Executive Director of the Maine Association for Community Service Providers (MACSP).“We are grateful for the support of both Governor Mills and state legislators for these funds that will help to maintain vital daily supports and community access for thousands of Mainers with disabilities while making changes to service models and improvements in homes throughout the state.”

On Wednesday, the Department issued $4.75 million in grants to HCBS providers that have been working to comply with a federal rule that promotes greater inclusion in the community for individuals with disabilities. The funding helps providers make changes to their policies, procedures, and facilities by a federal deadline of March 2023 to better support individuals in engaging in community life, controlling their personal resources, and seeking employment. While most eligible providers registered for the payments, the Department has re-opened registration for an additional two weeks from September 12th to September 26, 2022 to ensure all eligible providers can access these funds. Eligible providers that have not yet registered may do so online using this web form.

These HCBS services include a broad range of community and work supports for older adults and people with intellectual and physical disabilities, brain injury, and autism under MaineCare Benefits Manual Sections 18, 19, 20, 21, and 29.

Next Wednesday, September 28, the Department will make a one-time MaineCare payment of $6 million to group homes and family-centered homes serving adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities under Section 21. The payment assists a subset of HCBS providers who are addressing continuing COVID-related staffing challenges in recognition of the significant toll of the pandemic on their residential operations. Registration is not necessary for this payment. Eligible providers have been identified through MaineCare claims and the payments are prorated based on those claims.

These two payments align with the Department’s overarching HCBS improvement plan to bolster access to high-quality services for adults with disabilities. The funding supporting the improvement plan was made available to states through the American Rescue Plan specifically for home and community-based activities. A cornerstone of the plan is approximately $120 million in recruitment and retention payments the Department issued in February and March to HCBS agencies for bonuses to more than 20,000 direct support workers. The initiative included payments to workers providing aging, behavioral health, and intellectual disability services.

Developed in consultation with stakeholders, including providers and families, the ARPA HCBS improvement plan reflects the consensus that the most immediate challenge facing Maine’s HCBS system is attracting and retaining direct support workers. As part of the plan, the Department is also supporting a direct support worker council in partnership with the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, developing career advancement pathways, making worker certification portable across types of disability and settings of care, collaborating with the Maine Department of Labor and higher education institutions on direct care worker recruitment and training, and pursuing other longer-term initiatives. The Administration summarized these and other workforce initiatives in a report (PDF) submitted earlier this year to the Legislature.

Above and beyond the ARPA HCBS improvement plan, DHHS is also making historic investments in the HCBS system to support MaineCare rate increases and to improve access to services through an expanded number of slots. The biennial and supplemental budgets for fiscal years 2022 and 2023 invest $159 million to increase MaineCare rates for HCBS waiver services for older adults and people with disabilities and brain injury.

These investments follow increased funding that Governor Mills has provided each year since 2019 to provide greater access to these services. Despite the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic, over 10 percent more Maine residents were receiving services under the HCBS waivers and their state-funded equivalent (Section 63) in January of 2022 compared to January of 2019 (8,669 compared to 7,791).

September 26, 2022

Maine Residents May Now Order Free COVID-19 Tests Every Month Through Project ACT

AUGUSTA—The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced today that Maine people may now order free COVID-19 tests once a month through Project Access COVID Tests (Project ACT). Households in Maine may place one order per month through the Project ACT website and receive one free kit of five rapid tests mailed to their home address.

Project ACT, a partnership between DHHS and The Rockefeller Foundation, has mailed 489,400 free, at-home COVID-19 test kits to Maine households since its launch in January 2022.

“Through the continued success of our partnership with Project ACT, Maine families can now receive free, convenient COVID-19 tests right at their door every month,” said Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Nirav D. Shah. “Testing, along with vaccination and other common-sense precautions, will help to keep our communities safe and healthy. Visit AccessCOVIDTests.org to ensure your family has tests on hand in case you get sick or come into contact with someone with COVID-19.”

Any Maine resident can visit the Project ACT website, AccessCovidTests.org, to place their order. No payment information is required — both the tests and shipping are free to residents – and the tests will be delivered through Amazon approximately one to two weeks after ordering. The tests require a quick swab inside each nostril, with results available within minutes. Any individual over the age of two can use the tests. As of July 8, 2022, the shelf-life of these rapid antigen tests has been extended from 6 to 12 months.

Maine was one of six states that participated in the pilot phase of Project ACT to increase access to testing in vulnerable communities. In February 2022, DHHS made the free tests available to all Maine households, regardless of ZIP code. Maine went on to become the first of the six pilot states to extend the program by providing additional tests and allowing reordering of up to three tests kits. Due to the success of Project ACT in Maine and other states, The Rockefeller Foundation extended the program nationwide in August.

DHHS is focused on ensuring access to convenient at-home home tests, also by continuing its partnership with Walgreens which administers BinaxNOW rapid tests at no cost to consumers. More information about accessing free, rapid, at-home tests can be found on the COVID-19 Testing in Maine website.

September 29, 2022

Maine CDC shares advice on how to avoid tick bites this fall

Deer ticks pose risk for Lyme and other diseases through November

AUGUSTA — The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) urges Maine people and visitors to take precautions against tick bites this fall. Maine experiences increased adult deer tick activity in late September through November. Deer ticks are commonly found in wooded, leafy, and shrubby areas, which may include areas around the yard.

Deer ticks can carry the germs that cause tickborne diseases. In Maine, these include Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, hard tick relapsing fever (Borrelia miyamotoi), and Powassan virus. These germs spread through the bite of an infected deer tick. Thus far in 2022, Maine CDC has recorded:

  • 1,977 cases of Lyme disease
  • 677 cases of anaplasmosis
  • 161 cases of babesiosis
  • 10 cases of hard tick relapsing fever, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention formerly identified asB. miyamotoi or B miyamotoi disease
  • 4 cases of Powassan encephalitis

This is a record high for Powassan encephalitis cases. Maine is also on track to break records for anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and Lyme disease cases this year.

The most commonly reported symptom of Lyme disease in Maine is a “bull’s-eye” rash. Other common symptoms of tickborne disease include body aches, chills, fever, headache, and swollen lymph nodes. If you experience any of these symptoms, talk to a health care provider. Mention any recent tick exposure.

Take steps to limit exposure to ticks and tickborne diseases:

  • Know when you are in tick habitat and use caution.
  • Use an EPA-approved repellent like DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
  • Wear light-colored clothing that covers the arms and legs and tuck pants into socks.
  • Perform tick checks daily and after any outdoor activity.

For more information: