ELLSWORTH — The updated guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that were announced on Dec. 27 (and include shortened quarantine and isolation times for people who have been exposed to or infected with COVID-19) will apply to Maine students.
Changes to the standard operating procedure for schools also include modifying who will be identified as “close contacts” of a COVID-19 case.
The Maine CDC will no longer consider exposures to COVID-19 that happened outside or on a school bus (where masks are federally mandated) as “close contacts.”
Also, if students and staff who participate in a school’s pooled testing program are exposed to COVID-19 in or outside of a school setting, they will not have to quarantine unless they test positive. Previously, the exposure had to occur within a school setting to avoid quarantine.
December data shows that nearly 30 percent of all Maine school staff and students were participating in pooled testing and as of Dec. 29, 49.3 percent of children ages five to 19 were fully vaccinated. Data from the end of October shows that 83 percent of school staff were fully vaccinated.
The new recommended isolation time (that now applies to those in school settings) for people who test positive for COVID-19 and are asymptomatic has been shortened from 10 days to five days, followed by five days of wearing a mask when around others.
Additionally, the CDC is now recommending that unvaccinated people and people who are not fully vaccinated or not yet boosted (if eligible for a booster shot) who have been exposed to COVID-19, quarantine for five days and then wear masks for five more days.
For Americans who are up to date on their shots, quarantining is not necessary after an exposure, but the CDC recommends taking a test five days after the exposure and wearing a mask for 10 days.
As of Jan. 3, there have been 478,858 booster doses administered in the state. In Hancock County, 21,240 booster doses had been administered.
Dr. James Jarvis at Northern Light Health’s Dec. 29 press briefing reported that there were 64 patients being treated for COVID-19 in Northern Light hospitals. He said that each of the organization’s acute care facilities are treating patients with COVID-19, including one patient at Northern Light Blue Hill Hospital and six at Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital.
On Jan. 4, the Maine CDC reported an uptick in hospitalizations, with 373 people receiving inpatient care. Of those patients, 114 were in critical care and 55 were on ventilators.
The Maine CDC also reported 25 COVID-related deaths on Jan. 4, including a resident of Hancock County.
Twenty-three of those deaths were identified by vital records review and occurred between Nov. 15 and Dec. 17.