The Maine Department of Education has recruited more than 20 retired nurses to assist the state with contact tracing as COVID-19 cases surge.
Education officials say the new team of tracers will specifically work on cases related to schools. Emily Poland, a school nurse consultant with the DOE, says administrators and nurses must initially notify close contacts and tell them to quarantine. But Poland says with the recent surge in cases, CDC contact tracers have been delayed in following up. Poland says the new team will specifically work to fill in that gap.
“We want them to feel like they’re supported from the state level. Saying yes, we recognize you are identifying close contacts. And we need to be able to back that up with resources from the state level,” she says. “My hope is that this effort will be able to support our schools in their effort to keep kids going to school, in-person, as much as possible. We need to be able to identify those close contacts and monitor them in an efficient way.”
The new DOE contact tracers are in addition to about 150 investigators and tracers working with the Maine CDC.
The state has allocated about $500,000 for the new initiative, with resources come from federal coronavirus relief funds.
The DOE says that while transmission of the virus has been lower in schools than the population as a whole, last week “roughly half of the close contacts identified as connected with new cases of COVID-19 in Maine were associated with schools.”
Over the past 30 days, 259 cases of COVID-19 have been detected in Maine’s K-12 schools.