Maine CDC Press Release

July 30, 2020

Mills Administration Announces Further Investment to Address Racial and Ethnic Disparities in COVID-19

AUGUSTA- The Mills Administration announced today an investment of $1 million from the Coronavirus Relief Fund to significantly and quickly expand services to help reduce the disproportionately large racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 in Maine.

This funding through the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) will expand education, prevention, and eligibility for services currently supported by the Coronavirus Relief Fund. Generally, it will include individuals referred to DHHS by communities at elevated risk of COVID-19. It will support temporary wrap-around services such as food as well as referrals to existing child care, health care, and income support programs. This funding will be provided directly to community-based organizations that are run and led by the communities they serve. The Department will issue an application for the "2020 COVID Health Equity Improvement Initiative" next week, after additional consultation with community-based organizations on its design.

This investment represents our continued commitment to making progress on the unacceptable disparities in COVID-19 in Maine, said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. In addition to preventing the spread and limiting the impact of the virus, our response must include working in partnership with organizations trusted by the communities they serve and addressing the underlying problems that contribute to this disparity.

The Governor's commitment more than doubles the nearly $1 million already dedicated from the Coronavirus Relief Fund for social services and supports for people with COVID-19. This includes contracts with ten Community Action Program (CAP) agencies ($595,000), Wabanaki Public Health ($40,000), and Catholic Charities ($320,000). Catholic Charities, in partnership with community-based organizations, is supporting interpretation, translation and cultural brokering services, including culturally appropriate support services. To date, 326 people have been referred for currently available services across Maine.

This latest initiative builds on previous actions. It aims to support people identified by community organizations as at risk of and affected by COVID-19, not just those who have been directed to quarantine or isolate by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It could offer support services for those who dont currently qualify or offer extra needed supports for people already getting DHHS services. Organizations would also be supported for their work in connecting eligible people to existing programs like MaineCare or General Assistance. DHHS plans to quickly and directly fund willing and qualified non-profit organizations that meet the eligibility criteria which includes, among others, being run or led by the community the organization intends to serve.

The racial and ethnic disparities related to COVID-19 in Maine are profound, with the rate of cases among minority populations in Maine indicating a higher, crisis-level inequality in those communities. For example, Black and African American Mainers represent about 1.4 percent of the total population in Maine, but over 22 percent of the COVID-19 cases in Maine where race is known. Hispanic or Latinx Mainers represent about 1.7 percent of the population in Maine, but 3.9 percent of cases where the ethnicity is known.

To date, the Department has undertaken a number of actions to address disparities in COVID-19, including:

Access to testing: The Departments June 23 Standing Order (PDF) for COVID-19 testing includes people at elevated risk of contracting COVID-19, including people of color, given the disparities noted above. The Department is working with health care and community organizations to increase testing at sites accessible to people at risk.

Case Investigation: The Maine CDC is increasing staff with language and cultural proficiency. Maine CDC has successfully connected to 95 percent of COVID cases in Maine residents. The individuals Maine CDC did not connect with were not disproportionately represented by racial or ethnic minorities (24 out of 112 confirmed cases from May 1 to July 21).

Contact Tracing: Maine CDCs technology platform (Sara Alert) sends messages and check-ins to close contacts of people with COVID-19 in English, Spanish, French, and Somali. About 14 percent of people currently in the system have a primary language other than English. The Department pays for language translation, interpretation and cultural brokers to assist Maine CDC. Interpretation services in other languages are available on an as-needed basis.

Education: The Department is helping to organize educational webinars for health care providers on racial and ethnic health disparities.

More work by the Department is needed to address COVID disparities as well as the underlying causes of inequity that pre-date COVID-19. On July 24, the Department issued a Request for Information to get input on the Departments organizational structure and contracting process. It is working with private partners to support a rapid community-participatory needs assessment with communities of color. And, the Department will focus on equity as it works to help the state recover from the pandemic.

August 24, 2020

Maine CDC Offers Tips to Avoid Rabies Exposure from Bats

AUGUSTA - The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) urges Maine people to take steps to limit exposure to rabies during the time of year when bats are most active, which extends from August into early September. Maine CDC encourages people to be cautious around bats, enjoy them from a distance, and know what to do following an exposure to a bat.

Bats play an important role in local ecosystems, but they can spread viruses such as rabies, which can be fatal in humans, pets, and livestock. Timely treatment following a rabies exposure is effective in preventing disease in humans. Human rabies cases are rare in the United States, and Maine last reported a human rabies case in 1937. However, the rabies virus is naturally found in Maine wildlife including bats, foxes, raccoons, and skunks. In 2019, bats accounted for 40 percent of the 644 animals submitted to the Maine state lab for rabies testing, with nine bats testing positive for rabies.

The rabies virus spreads when infected mammals bite, and in some cases scratch, other mammals. Contact with an infected mammal's brain tissue or spinal cord can also transmit the virus to humans and pets. The virus is not transmitted in blood, urine, feces, skunk spray, or dried saliva. A rabid animal may show a variety of symptoms or no symptoms at all, so always be cautious around wildlife, including bats, or any animals you do not know.

Bat Exposures

A bat exposure includes bat bites, scratches, or handling a bat without gloves, but may also include awaking to a bat in the bedroom or finding a bat in a room with an unaccompanied child or incapacitated adult. For pets and livestock, this may include holding a bat in their mouths or being in the same area as the bat, such as a living room or barn.

It may be difficult in some situations to tell if a bat exposed a person or domestic animal. Therefore, bat exposures should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and always treated with caution.

Contact your health care provider about any potential exposure. The following steps are recommended if you, someone under your care, or a pet is exposed to a bat.

Trapping and Releasing Bats

  • Always attempt to capture the bat if you can safely do so.
  • Never handle a bat with your bare hands. Wear thick gloves, if available.
  • Put a container over the bat once it lands, then gently slide some cardboard underneath.
  • Take care not to damage the bat's head. Damaging the head can invalidate rabies testing.
  • Only release the bat outdoors if you are certain no people or pets were exposed.
  • If there is any uncertainty, call Maine CDC before releasing the bat.

Submitting Bats for Rabies Testing

  • Bats can be tested for rabies at Maine's Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory.
  • If a person or pet is exposed to a bat, contact your nearest Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife's (Maine IF&W) Warden Service Dispatch Center. A Game Warden will pick up and deliver the bat to the state lab for rabies testing.
  • An epidemiologist will follow up with results on any bat that tests positive.
  • Lab results for bats submitted before 9 a.m. are usually available the same day.

Rabies Treatment in Humans

  • Rabies treatment is called rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).
  • Rabies PEP should be administered within 10 days of an exposure.
  • In most cases, rabies PEP can wait until lab results come back for the tested animal.
  • People exposed to bats should contact their health care providers.
  • Health care providers will make the decision to begin or discontinue rabies PEP.

Rabies Management in Pets and Livestock

  • If your pets or livestock are exposed to a bat, call your veterinarian.
  • Domestic animals exposed to bats may need to be quarantined in order to rule out rabies.
  • Keeping your pets up to date on rabies vaccination can reduce quarantine times.

Bat-Proofing Buildings

  • If you have ongoing issues with bats, contact a Maine IF&W Regional Wildlife Biologist who can talk to you about your options for removing bats from the building.

Bats and COVID-19

  • To date, there are no reported cases of SARS-CoV-2 in North American wildlife, including bats. Mainers are unlikely to get COVID-19 when interacting with bats and other wildlife.

For more information:

August 24, 2020

Maine CDC Investigates COVID-19 Cases Among York County First Responders

AUGUSTA - The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) and Maine Emergency Medical Services (Maine EMS) are investigating an increase in the number of cases of COVID-19 among first responders in York County. At present, there are at least four recent, confirmed cases of COVID-19 involving firefighters and/or EMS clinicians. In addition, several other individuals have been placed in quarantine following exposures to first responders affected by COVID-19.

At this time, Maine CDC has not determined the origin of these cases, although an epidemiological investigation is underway. Three of the cases are associated with the Sanford Fire Department. Maine CDC has opened an outbreak investigation related to those cases. The first positive test associated with a Sanford Fire Department employee was reported Thursday. Maine CDC has offered testing to all affected individuals, which began Thursday, and close contacts of confirmed cases are being notified.

Over the weekend, Maine CDC learned that one of the affected Sanford Fire Department members and another first responder who had tested positive also recently worked with the Buxton Fire Department. On Saturday, testing was arranged for all Buxton Fire Department employees, their families, and others who were potentially exposed to the virus. Additionally, because one of the confirmed cases had interacted with members of the Saco Fire Department, Maine CDC and Maine EMS are today arranging testing for all Saco Fire Department members and other individuals who might have had contact with that person.

Anyone who believes they may have been exposed to the virus and/or who has symptoms of COVID-19 should call their health care provider before seeking medical care. COVID-19 symptoms include cough, fever, shortness of breath, fatigue, or body aches among many others. A comprehensive list of symptoms can be found here.

Individuals who experience any symptoms of COVID-19 or who otherwise do not feel well should not go to work. Except in very limited circumstances, a negative COVID-19 test result does not override the quarantine requirement for those who have had close contact with confirmed cases.

Maine CDC and Maine EMS on Sunday sent an alert to all fire chiefs and EMS directors in Maine to reaffirm support for first responders, including access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing. Maine CDC has prioritized first responders for PPE since the beginning of the pandemic and offers universal testing for first responders in the event of a single case. The alert also reviewed COVID-19 safety protocols and precautions when interacting with patients and when interacting with each other between emergency responses. To help mitigate the spread within stations and EMS barracks, Maine CDC and Maine EMS continue to recommend the use of face coverings or masks while in the stations between emergency calls.

If you have had recent, close contact with a member of the Sanford, Buxton, or Saco Fire Departments and you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, please contact your health care provider to determine whether you should be tested.

Maine CDC and Maine EMS continue to express gratitude to all first responders for their heroic work during this extended pandemic.

Dr. Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine CDC, will provide an update on the situation during the next scheduled media briefing at 2 p.m. Tuesday, August. 25.

For general information about COVID-19 in Maine, contact 211 Maine by calling 211, emailing info@211maine.org, or texting your ZIP code to 898-211. For questions specific to cases or potential cases, individuals may also call Maine CDC at 1-800-821-5821.

August 27, 2020

Maine DHHS and IDEXX Launch Mobile COVID-19 Testing Lab in Augusta

Testing capacity expands as DHHS extends support of 27 Swab and Send sites through at least October

AUGUSTA - The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Maine-based IDEXX Laboratories Inc. announced today the start of operations at the mobile laboratory stationed at the Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory (HETL) in Augusta, quadrupling Maine’s current COVID-19 testing capacity. At the same time, DHHS is extending its financial support of 27 swab and send locations through at least the end of October.

The new mobile lab, which is supported by federal funding, serves as an extension of HETL and is thus federally certified, confirming that the mobile lab meets or exceeds all quality assurance standards. As of this week, the mobile lab is accepting specimens and reporting out results.

HETL’s maximum testing capacity is increasing from approximately 6,000 per week to more than 25,000 per week. Some surge capacity will be reserved to ensure the lab is positioned to respond to any future outbreaks and to maintain streamlined operations. This added capacity is made possible through the State’s partnership with IDEXX for additional test kits, personnel, and the mobile lab.

“This is another significant step forward in our efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. On behalf of the people of Maine, I applaud our staff at the State lab and thank IDEXX for their continued partnership, which has made reliable testing more widely available across our state,” said Governor Mills. “While this expansion of testing is welcome news, testing alone cannot prevent new cases or new outbreaks. Only we can do that by continuing to do our part and take the necessary steps to protect our health and the health of our loved ones as we welcome fall in Maine.”

“The staff at HETL have worked tirelessly throughout this pandemic to ensure that Maine people and visitors have access to reliable and timely COVID-19 testing results,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “The mobile lab is critical to expanding Maine’s testing capacity and keeping infection rates low as we enter the fall.We thank IDEXX for their strong partnership, valued collaboration, and contribution to Maine’s high ranking among states in COVID-19 response.”

“We are inspired by the ongoing dedication of so many who continue to work tirelessly to test, treat, and contain COVID-19,” said Olivier te Boekhorst, Corporate Vice President of IDEXX. “We are pleased to leverage the capabilities of IDEXX to contribute to the fight against this pandemic both here in Maine and across the globe.”

Also today, Maine DHHS announced that it has extended federal funding for swab and sendproviders, originally scheduled to end by August 31, to October 31. This reimbursement supports swab and send locations in offering testing free of charge to individuals who believe they may have COVID-19 or could have been exposed to the virus, with or without symptoms, as defined under the DHHS Standing Order. All swab and send sites send samples to HETL. After October, swab and sends will bill insurance companies for the service.

The swab and send locations continue to increase their volume of specimen collection. For example, the site operated by the City of Westbrook has sent more than 1,400 samples to HETL since beginning operations on August 3.

HETL reached an operational milestone last week when it crossed the threshold of processing 50,000 COVID-19 samples since March 2020. This surpasses HETL’s annual volume for all clinical microbiology tests, such as flu tests, for each of the past five years.

As of today, this increasing volume at HETL contributed to 273 COVID-19 tests per 100,000 people, an increase of nearly 60 percent since the first week in August. HETL continues to provide test results within 24 to 48 hours of receiving samples, with no backlog.

During this period of increasing workload, HETL staff have collaborated with IDEXX to prepare the mobile lab for launch, including training employees, resolving supply chain challenges relating to equipment and materials, and obtaining certifications.

The 27 swab and send sites complement the roughly 40 current testing sites already available to the public. For a list of sites providing tests under the DHHS Standing Order, which includes all swab and send sites, visit the Keep Maine Healthy website.

Some of the organizations operating swab and send sites, as well as other organizations, are offering testing to their patients at additional sites as well. For a complete and frequently updated list of COVID-19 testing sites in Maine, visit Get-Tested-COVID19.org.

August 29, 2020

Maine CDC Investigates COVID-19 Outbreak Affiliated with Sanford Church

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) is investigating an outbreak of COVID-19 among individuals affiliated with the Calvary Baptist Church in Sanford.

At present, there are at least five confirmed cases of COVID-19 involving people affiliated with the church. An epidemiological investigation is underway, including determining the extent of links to other outbreaks in York and Penobscot counties.

Maine CDC is notifying close contacts of confirmed cases. Anyone who attended services at Calvary Baptist Church from August 9 through August 23 or attended the church's Vacation Bible School from August 10 through August 14 was potentially exposed. Ongoing exposures are possible so individuals affiliated with Calvary Baptist Church should monitor for signs and symptoms of disease. Those who believe they may have been exposed to the virus and/or have symptoms of COVID-19 should call their health care provider to determine whether they should be tested.

In addition, individuals who believe they may have COVID-19 or could have been exposed to the virus, with or without symptoms, may get a test under the Department of Health and Human Services Standing Order. A list of sites providing tests under the DHHS Standing Order(PDF), which includes DHHS-sponsored swab and send sites that offer testing at no charge, is available on the Keep Maine Healthy website.

COVID-19 symptoms include cough, fever, shortness of breath, fatigue, or body aches among many others. A comprehensive list of symptoms can be foundhere.

Individuals who experience any symptoms of COVID-19 or who otherwise do not feel well should not go to work or attend gatherings of any size.

Maine people can protect their health and prevent the spread of COVID-19 by practicing hand hygiene, physical distancing, and wearing a face covering in public places, including religious gatherings and study groups, especially when physical distancing is difficult to maintain.

For general information about COVID-19 in Maine, contact 211 Maine by calling 211, emailinginfo@211maine.org, or texting your ZIP code to 898-211. For questions specific to cases or potential cases, individuals may also call Maine CDC at 1-800-821-5821.

September 1, 2020

Maine CDC Announces Possible Exposure to Acute Hepatitis A at Saco Pizza Restaurant

AUGUSTA - The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) has identified a case of acute hepatitis A virus infection in a Saco food service worker.

The individual handled food at Saco House of Pizza in Saco while infectious from August 5, 2020, through August 21, 2020. While this employee was not in charge of preparing food, the individual had access to food in the kitchen.

Maine CDC's assessment of the employee's illness determined that restaurant patrons and employees may be at risk for hepatitis A infection. Out of an abundance of caution, Maine CDC recommends that anyone who may have eaten food prepared at Saco House of Pizza or worked at the restaurant from August 18, 2020, through August 21, 2020, promptly receive hepatitis A vaccine, as there is a 14-day window during which prophylaxis is effective after exposure. This includes anyone who may have had take-out, delivery, or curbside pickup of food from the restaurant.

Anyone who visited the restaurant from August 5, 2020, through August 17, 2020, is outside the timeframe for which prophylaxis is recommended but should watch for symptoms and seek medical attention if symptoms develop. Individuals with compromised immune systems or children younger than one year old who visited the restaurant during this time may benefit from hepatitis A immune globulin (IG), upon consultation with their health care providers.

The best way to prevent hepatitis A infection is to get vaccinated.

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. Symptoms range from mild illness to a severe sickness that requires hospitalization and can last several months. Most adults with hepatitis A have a sudden onset of symptoms such as tiredness, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, dark urine, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes). Most children younger than 6 years old do not have symptoms or have an unrecognized infection.

Hepatitis A can be spread through contaminated food or water, especially in food prepared by a person who is infected. Symptoms begin to show 15-50 days after exposure to the virus. An infected person can spread the virus to others from approximately two weeks before symptoms start until one week after symptoms end.

Health care providers are encouraged to remain vigilant for hepatitis A infection in persons with consistent symptoms.

For more information on hepatitis A, visit: www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/index.htm

September 1, 2020

Maine DHHS Supports Nursing Facilities In Meeting New Federal COVID-19 Testing Requirements

Department issuing new guidance and launching portal to connect nursing facilities with jobseekers

AUGUSTA - The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) issued guidance today to nursing facilities to assist them in meeting new federal requirements for routine COVID-19 testing, which is supported by the federal government's release of more than $10 million in funding and its distribution of point-of-care testing devices to Maine's nursing facilities. DHHS also announced that it is helping nursing facilities address staffing challenges by launching a new online tool to connect them with qualified job applicants.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released new rules last week that require nursing facilities to test all staff for COVID-19 at set frequencies based on the prevalence of the virus in the facility's county. CMS requires that residents continue to be tested based on a physician's order, in concert with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as the result of a COVID-positive staff or resident, or if they show symptoms.

Maine CDC already offers universal testing of nursing facility residents and staff in the event of a single confirmed case and has worked with several facilities to support their choice to proactively test staff and residents. Now, all nursing facilities must develop plans for proactive surveillance testing that meet the new federal criteria. The plans are due to Maine DHHS by September 15.

Maine DHHS will review the plans, which will inform the State's ongoing review of restrictions on visitation at nursing facilities that are designed to ensure health and safety while recognizing need for residents to maintain critical connections with loved ones.

"Today's guidance along with the new federal support will add to our progress in limiting the impact of COVID-19 on Maine's nursing facilities," said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. "It will also bring us one step closer to allowing family and friends to visit their loved ones in nursing facilities, which has been limited by the threat of COVID-19."

Under last week's federal guidance, CMS has established federal regulatory authority to take enforcement action against nursing homes that fail to appropriately test their staff and residents.

CMS announced that nursing facilities will receive additional Federal funding to support their COVID-19 response, including testing. Maine nursing facilities received $10.4 million to support additional staff and increased testing in the first round of a $5 billion allocation to nursing facilities from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This funding could support nursing facilities' use of commercial laboratories for surveillance COVID-19 testing or the costs of transporting samples to the Maine CDC Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory (HETL).

Maine DHHS issued guidance to nursing facilities today outlining their options for surveillance testing of staff to meet the new federal requirements. Nursing facilities may:

  1. Send samples to HETL for testing. Facilities that choose this option must enroll in the State's Electronic Testing Order and Reporting (eTOR) portal and coordinate the timing of such testing with HETL to avoid unnecessary delays in processing of samples. Facilities' clinical staff would swab other staff members or supervise staff who self-swab.
  2. Send samples to a private commercial lab for testing. Facility clinical staff or a contractor would collect samples from staff.
  3. If they employ fewer than 75 staff, arrange for staff testing through one of the DHHS-contracted Swab and Send sites, provided the facility coordinates scheduling of this testing with DHHS. This option is currently available only to facilities under this staffing level to ensure that the Swab and Send locations retain sufficient capacity to serve the public.
  4. Use Federally provided Point of Care (POC) antigen testing devices to conduct staff testing consistent with the Federal testing frequency guidelines. The federal government has informed DHHS that approximately 90 nursing facilities in the state will receive POC testing devices. This option does not exempt nursing facilities from continuing to conduct staff and visitor screening consistent with U.S. CDC guidelines. Additionally, follow up PCR testing may be necessary in some circumstances. Facilities that choose this option are responsible for conducting all testing, securing all testing supplies and reporting test results to the Maine CDC.

Regardless of which option a facility chooses, Maine CDC will continue to offer universal testing of nursing facility staff and residents through HETL in the event of a single confirmed case of COVID-19.

To help nursing facilities address staffing challenges, which predate the COVID-19 pandemic but may intensify with the implementation of surveillance testing, DHHS is launching Connect to Care, a new portal where facilities can connect with qualified job applicants. DHHS is testing the portal with a small number of nursing facilities with plans to make it available to all nursing facilities shortly. Connect to Care is offered at no charge in partnership with ADvancing States, a national organization of state aging and disability agencies. DHHS expects to expand the portal to additional long-term care settings in the near future.

According to CMS data, Maine's rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths in nursing facilities is among the lowest in the nation. This follows numerous actions taken by DHHS to support the state's nursing homes, including issuing an emergency rule in April to further protect the health and safety of staff and residents against the spread of COVID-19 and being among the first states in the nation to conduct universal testing at nursing facilities when an outbreak of COVID-19 was confirmed. The State provides an emergency cache of PPE to facilities with outbreaks and provides same-day support and guidance.

On March 26, DHHS announced that MaineCare will pay nursing facilities for extra costs associated with COVID-19, including staffing above and beyond customary levels to maintain proper ratios and to monitor residents and screen visitors, supplies and PPE, such as face masks and gowns, beyond the amounts typically purchased. This financial support for long-term care facilities and congregate living facilities is coupled with DHHS' proactive public health measures to support them.

September 12, 2020

Additional COVID-19 Cases Linked to Funeral in Sanford Area

Attendees of multiple social clubs may have been exposed to virus

AUGUSTA - The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) reported today that the total number of COVID-19 cases associated with a Sanford area funeral and reception on August 31, 2020, has increased to 10. The funeral took place outdoors at the Southern Maine Veterans Cemetery in Springvale, and the reception occurred indoors and outdoors at Sanford American Legion Post 19 on Main Street in Springvale. Additionally, individuals now confirmed with COVID-19 who attended the funeral and reception went to social clubs in the area, potentially exposing others at those clubs to the virus.

Maine CDC opened outbreak investigations for the reception, which now also includes the funeral, and for multiple social clubs earlier this week. Maine CDC is notifying close contacts of confirmed cases. Epidemiological investigation determined links to cases at other social clubs. Anyone who attended the funeral or reception or went to American Legion Post 443 since August 31, 2020, should monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. Those who believe they may have been exposed to the virus and/or have symptoms of COVID-19 should call their health care provider to determine whether they should be tested. Additionally, attendees of the following clubs on the following dates were potentially exposed to the virus and should take the same steps:

  • Sanford Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9935 on Hutchenson Street in Sanford from August 24 to the present (outbreak opened 9/11/2020)
  • Lafayette Social Club on Winter Street in Sanford between August 27 and September 2 (outbreak opened 9/5/2020)
  • Wolves Club on High Street in Sanford from August 26 to the present
  • Springvale Social Club on Bridge Street in Springvale from September 1 to the present
  • Sanford Elks Lodge on Elm Street in Sanford from September 3 to the present
  • Amvets Sanford Post 3 on School Street in Sanford from August 26 to the present (outbreak opened 9/9/2020)

These outbreaks have not been linked to ongoing outbreak investigations at other sites in York County, but epidemiological investigation continues.

Individuals who believe they may have COVID-19 or could have been exposed to the virus, with or without symptoms, may get a test under the Department of Health and Human Services' Standing Order. A list of sites providing tests under the DHHS Standing Order, which includes DHHS-sponsored swab and send sites that offer testing at no charge, is available on the Keep Maine Healthy website. In York County, state-sponsored sites include Promerica Health located at the Maine Visitor Information Center in Kittery. It operates from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays, and from noon to 7 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays. Appointments can be made at covidtestforme.com. Additionally, Nasson Health Care in Sanford is offering tests; appointments can be made by calling 207-490-6900.

COVID-19 symptoms include cough, fever, shortness of breath, fatigue, or body aches among many others. A comprehensive list of symptoms can be found here.

Individuals who experience any symptoms of COVID-19 or who otherwise do not feel well should not go to work or attend gatherings of any size.

Maine people can protect their health and prevent the spread of COVID-19 by practicing hand hygiene, physical distancing, and wearing a face covering in public places, especially when physical distancing is difficult to maintain.

For general information about COVID-19 in Maine, contact 211 Maine by calling 211, emailing info@211maine.org, or texting your ZIP code to 898-211. For questions specific to cases or potential cases, individuals may also call Maine CDC at 1-800-821-5821.

September 16, 2020

WIC Benefits Now Available Through EBT Card Statewide

Conversion to new system benefits vendors and households with young children

AUGUSTA - The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program has completed the transition from paper food vouchers to an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card more than a month before a deadline established by the federal government. The new system is called eWIC.

The WIC program, administered by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC), works to improve the health and nutrition of women, infants, and children during critical times of growth and development. WIC provides healthy foods, nutrition education, breastfeeding support and supplies, and referrals to other services. Participants statewide at nutritional risk receive WIC benefits through local WIC agencies in their communities.

The WIC program serves more than 16,500 individuals. Pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women, and infants and children up to age 5 are eligible. Participants must meet income guidelines, live in Maine, and be determined by a health professional to be at "nutritional risk."

Through the new eWIC system, benefits for WIC-approved foods are automatically entered onto an EBT card similar to a debit card. This card replaces the current paper-based food instruments and cash-value vouchers that were redeemed at WIC-authorized stores statewide.

Maine rolled out eWIC in phases by county. Penobscot and Piscataquis counties went live on June 22. Aroostook, Hancock, Washington, Kennebec and Somerset WIC participants began receiving cards on July 20. Participants in Androscoggin, Franklin, Oxford, Sagadahoc, Waldo, Lincoln, Knox, Cumberland and York counties started receiving cards on August 31.

Recognizing the value of eWIC, the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 mandated that each state WIC agency implement an electronic benefit transfer system throughout the state by October 1, 2020. Benefits of conversion to an electronic system include smoother and faster transactions at the register and automatic electronic payments to vendors.

During the implementation period, Maine WIC paused its enrollment of new vendors. This pause has now been lifted. Enrollment information for stores can be found at www.maine.gov/WIC.

For more information about the benefits of WIC, how to enroll as a new participant, or store locations, please go to www.maine.gov/WIC.

September 21, 2020

Maine CDC to Expand Support for Residents with Alzheimer's and Dementia, Advancing Age-Friendly Efforts

AUGUSTA - The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) is among the first 15 public health entities nationally to be awarded federal funding to expand support services for people with dementia and Alzheimer's disease under the Building Our Largest Dementia (BOLD) Infrastructure for Alzheimer's Act. Maine's initial award is $200,000, which can be renewed annually through 2023.

Maine CDC applied for the funding in partnership with the Maine Office of Aging and Disability Services.

The BOLD Act, which became law on December 31, 2018, authorizes the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. CDC) to allocate up to $20 million per year for five years to local entities that provide dementia and Alzheimer's disease care and support. The activities outlined in the BOLD Act are designed to create a uniform national public health infrastructure with a focus on issues such as increasing early detection and diagnosis, risk reduction, prevention of avoidable hospitalizations, and supporting dementia caregiving.

"This award is a result of the strong work being done to meet the needs of aging Mainers," said Dr. Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine CDC. "The additional funding will help expand those efforts at a time when demographic trends signal a growing need. Today, on World Alzheimer's Day, we recognize all those affected by dementia in Maine and throughout the globe."

"Dementia from Alzheimer's and other diseases is a leading cause of long-term nursing home admissions and a major stressor for caregivers, who are often older themselves," said Paul Saucier, Director of the Office of Aging and Disability Services. "This award will help Maine build its capacity to prevent dementia and advance the state's status as an Age-Friendly State. We look forward to working with Maine CDC and community partners on this critical initiative."

With the addition of BOLD Act funding, Maine CDC will collaborate with governmental and nongovernmental partners to build Maine's Alzheimer's Prevention Program based on the Healthy Brain Initiative Road Map and advance Maine's efforts as a designated Age Friendly State. In October 2019, Maine became the sixth state to receive the coveted designation; but Maine has led the country for years in the number of towns and counties that have joined the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities.

Alzheimer's disease, which affects parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language, is a progressive disease leading to loss of cognitive functions and the ability to respond to the environment, thus requiring constant caregiving. Scientists are finding more evidence that risk factors for many chronic diseases, including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and stroke, may also increase the risk of Alzheimer's. As with chronic disease, prevention can lead to a better quality of life for those on the dementia spectrum. Increased physical exercise and complex mental stimulation, social interactions, and sufficient sleep all reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease. There are 5.8 million Americans living with Alzheimer's and more than 16 million Americans provide unpaid care for them.

Maine has the nation's oldest median age (44.7 years) and the highest percentage (20.6 percent) of its population age 65 or older, according to the U.S. Census. The percentage of Maine's population 65 and older is growing faster than the average both in New England and nationally. This trend leads to increased need for healthy brain promotion. Using 2019 estimates from the Alzheimer's Association, the projected number of Mainers age 65 years and older with Alzheimer's disease will grow from 28,000 to 35,000 by 2025, a growth rate of 25 percent.

For more information, please visit: cdc.gov/aging/bold/index.html.

September 21, 2020

Maine CDC Reports Potential COVID-19 Exposure at Portland Jetport

AUGUSTA - The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) reported today that an individual with COVID-19 and a close contact of that individual went to the Portland International Jetport on Sunday, potentially exposing others to the virus. The individuals were at the jetport Sunday afternoon.

People who were at the Portland International Jetport between 12:30 PM and 4:00 PM Sunday, September 20, 2020, may have been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19. Those individuals should monitor themselves for symptoms and consult their health care provider to determine whether they should be tested.

The individual with COVID-19 tested positive late last week and was directed to isolate. This individual's close contacts were also directed to quarantine. Maine CDC staff became aware Sunday that the individual and one close contact intended to fly to Florida. Maine CDC staff communicated with the individual with COVID-19, who subsequently chose not to board the aircraft. The close contact of that individual was removed from a plane before takeoff and has not been confirmed to have COVID-19.

The individual with COVID-19 returned to isolation, and the close contact of that individual returned to quarantine. People with COVID-19 must isolate until a public health official can confirm that they meet the criteria for recovery. Close contacts of people with COVID-19 must quarantine for 14 days, regardless of whether they receive a negative test result.

Individuals who believe they may have COVID-19 or could have been exposed to the virus, with or without symptoms, may get a test under the Department of Health and Human Services' Standing Order. A list of sites providing tests under the DHHS Standing Order, which includes DHHS-sponsored swab and send sites that offer testing at no charge, is available on the Keep Maine Healthy website.

COVID-19 symptoms include cough, fever, shortness of breath, fatigue, or body aches among many others. A comprehensive list of symptoms can be found on cdc.gov.

Individuals who experience any symptoms of COVID-19 or who otherwise do not feel well should not go out in public, including for work, travel, school, or gatherings of any size.

Maine people can protect their health and prevent the spread of COVID-19 by washing their hands often, staying at least 6 feet apart, and wearing a face covering in public places, especially when physical distancing is difficult to maintain.

For general information about COVID-19 in Maine, contact 211 Maine by calling 211, emailing info@211maine.org, or texting your ZIP code to 898-211. For questions specific to cases or potential cases, individuals may also call Maine CDC at 1-800-821-5821.

September 22, 2020

Mills Administration Broadens Standing Order to Allow Anyone in Maine To Get Tested for COVID-19

State's vastly expanded testing capacity must still be used wisely

AUGUSTA- Governor Janet Mills and Commissioner of Health and Human Services Jeanne Lambrew announced today that anyone in Maine can now get tested for COVID-19 without the need for a separate order from a health care provider, a milestone resulting from Maine's vastly expanded testing capacity.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has broadened its Standing Order (PDF) to include all individuals who think they need a COVID-19 test. This means that participating sites may test anyone in Maine over the age of 12 months who feels they need a test, even if they don't have a primary care provider or a written order from a clinician.

This expanded access is made possible by Maine's expanded testing capacity, including ramping up operations at the State lab, partnering with Maine-based IDEXX Laboratories Inc., and developing nearly 30 "swab and send" testing locations throughout Maine.

As of yesterday, Maine is conducting 400 tests per 100,000 people, a State record. Maine ranks first in the nation on the percentage of people tested according to a target level developed by researchers at the Harvard Global Health Institute.

"Increased access to testing is a critical part of the strategy to mitigate the spread of this deadly virus, to return kids to school safely, and to ensure that our economy stays up and running," said Governor Janet Mills. "This expanded order is another step forward in our ongoing battle against COVID-19 as Maine continues to be a national leader in testing capacity."

"Today's broadening of the Standing Order is the result of months of work and effective partnerships with health care organizations across Maine," said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. "While it represents a significant milestone, testing alone will not defeat this virus. Maine people must remain vigilant with the public health measures that prevent the spread of COVID-19."

Additionally, the Standing Order now also applies to antigen testing, in addition to PCR (molecular) testing. The clinical performance of rapid antigen tests largely depends on the circumstances in which they are used. Rapid antigen tests perform best when the person is tested in the early stages of infection with coronavirus when viral load is generally highest. The Standing Order does not apply to antibody testing, which has not been proven reliable.

While it's always best to talk with a health care provider about getting a COVID-19 test, those who believe they've been exposed to COVID-19 may get a test at a site operating under the Standing Order. The Order helps people who don't have a primary health care provider, can't communicate in a timely way with their health care provider, or are visiting Maine or coming back to Maine from another state, for example.

Previously, the DHHS Standing Order broadly allowed people with known exposure or elevated risk of exposure to the virus to get tested, with or without symptoms. Now, people who feel they need a test who are not otherwise at high risk can get tested, with or without symptoms.

Maine CDC continues to encourage people experiencing symptoms to get tested, as well as close contacts of infected individuals, people of color, and others at high risk of COVID-19.

While more people in Maine can now get tested under the Standing Order at participating sites, not everyone should get tested. Testing capacity has been vastly expanded but resources must continue to be used wisely. Maine CDC does not recommend, for example, that people get tested for peace of mind before visiting another household or attending a gathering. This is because a person could already have been exposed but been tested too early for the virus to be detected, or could be exposed to COVID-19 after getting tested. Testing alone is notprevention, and a negative test does not necessarily mean it's safe to gather with others.The best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are to practice physical distancing and good hand hygiene and wear a face covering in public.

The U.S. CDC also does not advise frequent, routine testing in most circumstances.

Dozens of sites across Maine have been providing testing under the Standing Order since it was first issued in June. This includes all of Maine's 27 Swab and Send sites. The Swab and Send sites complement the roughly 40 current testing sites already available to the public. For a list of all sites providing tests to people without symptoms and without requiring a provider referral, visit theKeep Maine Healthy website.

Some of the organizations operating Swab and Send sites, as well as other organizations, are offering testing to their patients at additional sites as well. For a complete and frequently updated list of COVID-19 testing sites in Maine, visit Get-Tested-COVID19.org.

DHHS covers the full costs of specimen collection and lab testing for any COVID-19 lab test done at one of the State-contracted Swab and Send sites through at least October 31, 2020. For other testing sites, individuals should confirm coverage with their health plan as well as ask about any payments that may be required.

The DHHS Standing Order complements but does not replace patients' relationship with their health care provider. It also does not require all health care providers or COVID-19 test collection sites to provide a test.

It's always best to call a testing site before going to schedule an appointment, which is typically required. Policies on minimum age for testing vary among locations, so individuals should check before seeking a test for anyone under 18. Children 12 months and younger should see a health care provider for a COVID-19 test.

It's always best to call a testing site before going to schedule an appointment, which is typically required. Policies on minimum age for testing vary among locations, so individuals should check before seeking a test for anyone under 18. Children 12 months and younger should see a health care provider for a COVID-19 test.

It's always best to call a testing site before going to schedule an appointment, which is typically required. Policies on minimum age for testing vary among locations, so individuals should check before seeking a test for anyone under 18. Children 12 months and younger should see a health care provider for a COVID-19 test.

For a list of frequently asked questions on the Standing Order, visit Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Standing Order for COVID-19 Lab Testing Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

September 22, 2020

Maine CDC Reports Potential COVID-19 Exposure at Ogunquit Restaurant

AUGUSTA - The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) reported today that patrons of the Ogunquit Beach Lobster House in Ogunquit may have been exposed to COVID-19 after three employees there tested positive for the virus.

Maine CDC has opened an outbreak investigation and is conducting contact tracing. Individuals who dined or worked at the establishment between September 12, 2020, and September 18, 2020, could have been exposed to the virus and should monitor themselves for symptoms. Those determined to be close contacts of confirmed cases must quarantine for 14 days and should consult their medical providers about testing.

Individuals who think they need a COVID-19 test, with or without symptoms, may get one under the Department of Health and Human Services' Standing Order (PDF). A list of sites providing tests under the Standing Order is available on the Keep Maine Healthy website. This list includes DHHS-sponsored swab and send sites that offer testing at no charge.

COVID-19 symptoms include cough, fever, shortness of breath, fatigue, or body aches among many others. A comprehensive list of symptoms can be found at cdc.gov.

Individuals who experience any symptoms of COVID-19 or who otherwise do not feel well should not go out in public, including for work, travel, school, or gatherings of any size.

Maine people can protect their health and prevent the spread of COVID-19 by washing their hands often, staying at least 6 feet apart, and wearing a face covering in public places, especially when physical distancing is difficult to maintain.

For general information about COVID-19 in Maine, contact 211 Maine by calling 211, emailing info@211maine.org, or texting your ZIP code to 898-211. For questions specific to cases or potential cases, individuals may also call Maine CDC at 1-800-821-5821.