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Maine CDC Warns Of Post-Christmas Spike As State Adds 3 Deaths, 439 COVID-19 Cases

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press
National Guardsmen set up the parking lot at a mobile testing location for COVID-19, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, in Auburn, Maine.

The director of the Maine CDC says he expects the state’s case numbers of COVID-19 to rise following the Christmas holiday.

Dr. Nirav Shah says there are many reasons, including a backlog of tests to process at some private labs, more people seeking tests after traveling and holiday gatherings.

Shah says if someone at your gathering tests positive for the virus, you should get tested, too.

“The optimum time to get tested is 5 days after your last interaction with someone who is now positive,” he says.

And, Shah says, stay at home.

In the two weeks since vaccinations first began for COVID-19 in Maine, a little more than 17,000 people have received the first dose. Shah says the agency’s initial focus is on hospital workers, emergency medical service personnel and home health agencies.

“We are hoping within the coming two weeks to be able to start expanding those rings outward,” he says, to include health workers outside hospital systems.

Shah says providers who treat patients at high risk for COVID-19, such as those receiving dialysis and cancer treatment, will likely be first. Details of how these providers will be notified they can get vaccinated are still being worked out, but Shah says the state will likely collaborate with professional societies.

Calls to Maine’s Statewide Crisis Line have increased during the pandemic. Dr. Jessica Pollard of the Office of Behavioral Health says holidays can create added stress. She urges anyone who needs support to reach out for help.

“If you’re struggling even a little bit, if you’re stressed out, don’t wait. Prevention is just as important for mental health as it is for other parts of health,” she says.

Maine launched the StrengthenME initiative this fall, which offers free stress management, wellness and resiliency resources to anyone experiencing emotional challenges in response to the pandemic. The number for StrengthenME is (207) 221-8198 and the Statewide Crisis Line can be reached at (888) 568-1112.

The Maine CDC reported 439 new cases on Monday and three more deaths among men and women in their 70s and 80s from York County.

One-hundred eighty-one people are hospitalized with COVID-19.

This story was originally published at 9:11 a.m. Monday, Dec. 28, 2020.