Contact tracing not up and running

BAR HARBOR — In the week of Aug. 11-18, the Maine Center for Disease Control reported 13 new positive COVID-19 test results among people whose primary residence is in another state. Under rules from the federal CDC, these cases are reported in each individual’s home state and not included in Maine’s total case count. 

Since the pandemic began in March, 189 such positive tests have been received, out of 5,400 nonresident tests conducted here. 

Two weeks after Mount Desert Island Hospital and the state CDC announced a partnership that would allow the hospital to participate in the state’s Sara Alert system for contact tracing, the system is not yet up and running. 

MDI Hospital continues to work on the necessary credentialing, training and system revisions needed to engage … in the public health reporting processes,” hospital spokesperson Oka Hutchins said in an email Tuesday. The hospital and CDC teams “have had numerous phone calls,” CDC director Dr. Nirav Shah said last week. 

We are committed to collaborating with the state to aid in contact tracing and receive proper training and guidance to complete effective contact tracing of our visitors and community,” Hutchins said. 

The contact tracing “pilot project” was set up after the hospital raised concern in late July about visitors from other states receiving positive COVID-19 tests after arriving here for vacation. There had been 5-7 such cases in the week before July 31, and 35 overall since March. 

As of Tuesday, the hospital had not received any new reports of such cases this month. It has also not reported any positive tests among samples taken at the hospital, including employees in the tourism sentinel testing program. 

After the CDC reported an outbreak from a wedding reception in Millinocket, Shah encouraged Mainers to “remember this situation as you are attending social gatherings of your own. 

There’s not a pocket, or a corner, or a ZIP code, where COVID-19 is not circulating,” he saidIt’s kind of like the old VISA card; it’s everywhere you want to be. 

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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