As Maine CDC scales back case investigations; public health officials speak of the importance of self-tracing

Published: Dec. 16, 2020 at 4:25 PM EST
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - Last week, the Maine CDC announced they were changing their COVID-19 case investigation procedures due to the surge in new cases.

The CDC now focuses its case investigation efforts on people who are considered at greater risk of contracting and spreading the disease.

“That leaves that middle population of people that may or may not get a call from Maine CDC if they test positive for COVID,” says Bangor Public Health Director Patty Hamilton.

Self-tracing has become increasingly important. Hamilton says, “Anybody can get COVID right now. It’s widespread. So, we just need to be respectful of each other and contact those other people that we’ve been in close contact with so they can take some steps to protect their families and friends and neighbors.”

What is a close contact? “We’re talking about 15 minutes or more, less than six feet apart, and you would have to go two days back from your test,” says Hamilton.

Public health officials say this is why it’s increasingly important to keep your bubble small. “I struggle to remember what I had for dinner yesterday, so trying to remember who met that criteria, keeping your group small will help you with that,” she says.

Making that phone call and telling your contact you’ve tested positive is not always easy.

“It’s not anybody’s fault. We’re all putting on our masks, we’re doing everything we can. Some of us are just going to get it.”

Some advice for telling your close contact, Hamilton says, “I think if you start off with the sense of, ‘We care about each other and this is what we can do as a community of caring.’”

Officials say this is our call to action and a step we can take to help limit the spread.

“We’re going to have to take on the gumshoe investigator role a little bit. But, I think we are up to the task. I think we can do it. I think we begin with kindness and coming from a place of helping out each other,” says Hamilton.

Public health officials say don’t be afraid to call your PCP for advice.

If you don’t have a primary care provider, you can call 211. State public health nurses are providing clinical guidance.

Penquis in Bangor also has some resources to help those who have tested positive for coronavirus.

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The CDC website also offers information on contact tracing.

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