The Maine CDC and DHHS announced several free COVID-19 tests, encouraging wastewater test results, and its plans to re-evaluate the schoolworm recommendation.
AUGUSTA, Maine – Maine’s public health leaders recognized encouraging trends as it updated the state on the COVID-19 pandemic response on Wednesday.
Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Nirav Shah and Commissioner for Health and Human Services Jeanne Lambrew announced several free COVID-19 tests, encouraging wastewater test results and a plan to reconsider the recommendation of the school mask after the school holidays in February.
NEW LOOK ON SCHOOL MASK RECOMMENDATION
Shah said public health officials will reconsider the state’s recommendation that schools require everyone to wear masks, but they will not make a decision until after the school holiday week in February.
Maine does not have a nationwide requirement that everyone in schools wear masks. Instead, the state has left it up to the districts to decide their own policies.
Shah said recent trends in transmission and the number of children testing positive are encouraging. He said officials will monitor several key measurements: hospitalizations, positivity rates and levels of COVID in wastewater.
“Therefore, we are keeping an eye on how things develop after next week, as well as looking for continued stability,” he said. “Where we are right now is encouraging. It’s favorable. We want to see these trends continue.”
Shah said it may take a week or two after the children return from the break before the CDC announces a decision, in part to see if there is any increase after the holiday week.
The state also allows schools without mask mandates to stop contact tracking. Shah said it was because the omicron variant was spreading too fast for contact tracking to be effective.
Encouraging trends in wastewater testing
Shah said we now have enough data to see the trends in COVID levels in wastewater. The data are all publicly available on the state’s CDC website.
He said this information is useful because it can show whether COVID is rising or falling in communities, without being dependent on people going and getting tested.
“The results are quite encouraging, almost, really significant declines week-on-week,” he said. “Those are good things, and it helps to inform the discussion we’ve had and talked about masking.”
MORE FREE COVID-19 TEST
All Mainers can now get more free COVID-19 tests through a state pilot program.
In late January, the Mills administration announced 125,000 free COVID-19 tests for people in zip codes where they might be struggling to access tests.
Lambrew said Wednesday that 76,680 test kits have been sent out, and she announced that all Mainers are now eligible to receive the tests.
You can order them online and they are completely free. Each household can have a test set, which contains five tests. Anyone aged two and over can use the tests.
Lambrew said the goal is to get the tests to families on time so they can test the students before returning to school after the February break.
“As the school holidays approach, we know that if the past is a prologue, then people will travel, people will gather, and there is an increased risk. So it’s just the next phase of this pilot, which, if successful, Maine will find. out if it continues in the future, “she said.
You can also order free COVID-19 tests through the federal government.