MaineHealth awaiting results, won't say how many samples they have sent to CDC

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PORTLAND, Maine (WMTW) MaineHealth has begun testing for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

A spokesperson for the medical group tells WMTW it has sent samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but will not say how many samples have been sent.

"As part of our ongoing coronavirus preparedness efforts, MaineHealth has expanded our guidelines for surveilling, testing and monitoring new and admitted patients to align with CDC guidelines. This broader criteria, specifically patients with respiratory ailments of unknown origin, has naturally increased the number of patients who qualify for testing," MaineHealth Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joan Boomsma said in a statement.

"Currently samples are being ordered through the federal CDC; no results have been returned. Any positive cases will be closely coordinated with state and federal health officials," she said.

Last month, a test from a Maine patient came back negative.

The federal government expanded guidelines Wednesday for who can and should submit samples for testing. With this expansion, more people in Maine could be tested in the coming days and weeks.

"Because the U.S. CDC has expanded the criteria for who should be tested, people may expect to hear more people tested. That doesn't mean there is a lot or more here in Maine; it also doesn't mean everyone should be tested." said Dr. Dora Mills with MaineHealth.

Maine has not had a recorded case of COVID-19 and health experts say the state is at low risk for the virus.

"While we are focused on ensuring our capacity to care for patients is continuous and in line with evidence-based practices, we urge community members to be informed for their own health. Individuals should practice good hand hygiene, monitor state and federal CDC updates and take appropriate measures if they are sick, such as calling their physician’s office first if they are not feeling well," Boomsma said.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, dry cough and shortness of breath. Anyone with symptoms is asked to call their doctor.

Health officials encourage everyone to be extra diligent with flu prevention habits, including hand washing, muffling coughs and sneezes, and staying home when you aren't feeling well.