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'It Won't Be One Size Fits All' - Maine CDC Cautious About Trump Admin's New Guidelines

Robert F. Bukaty
Two men chat at a safe distance in South Portland, Maine, Wednesday, April 8, 2020.

The Trump administration has released guidelines for states to reopen their economies and loosen social distancing orders related to the coronavirus pandemic. During a daily press briefing Friday, Maine Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Nirav Shah said the guidelines provide a framework for Maine, but many questions need to be answered moving forward.

As Dr. Shah fielded questions about the Trump administration's document, he compared it to a skeleton.

"It appears to be a good conversation starter. But really, truly, like all skeletons, it really does need a lot more meat on the bones."

The guidelines recommend states reopen in three phases based on several criteria, including a downward trend in COVID-19 cases for 14 days. Asked whether that was an adequate time frame to safely loosen restrictions, Shah said he recently discussed that question with his counterparts in other states.

"The short answer is that we're not sure yet. In some states, in some areas of those states, 14 days may in fact be the right call. But for others that are more populous, have a higher population density, it's not likely to be."

Similarly, Shah said there may be variations in where and how Maine loosens restrictions within the state because of regional differences in the severity of outbreaks.

"And that will be informed by the scientific and epidemiological differences. It won't be one size fits all."

Another criteria to reopen states is expanded testing. Currently, the CDC lab in Augusta can run about 3,000 tests, which Shah says is not enough.

"Expanded testing looks like going up several notches on the volume dial with each and every one of the testing platforms that's currently being used."

To expand testing at the CDC lab, Shah says Maine is reliant on the federal government to release more testing supplies. He says commercial labs could also help boost capacity. The two other platforms that need to be expanded are rapid tests and antibody tests, which Shah says the state is currently researching.

Originally published 5:41 p.m. Friday April 17, 2020

Correction: The CDC lab in Augusta can run 3,000 tests, not 3,000 tests per day.