Signage at the Bass Park coronavirus testing site in Bangor.

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Given the anticipated increase in COVID-19 cases, it’s more important than ever that Maine people know what to expect and how to take care of themselves and their loved ones. There are several helpful tools that can help us all understand the basics — most importantly when to seek testing and treatment for COVID-19, how to take care of yourself and family members at home, and when to go to the hospital if you become seriously ill.

Most people who develop COVID-19 have relatively mild symptoms and can appropriately self-isolate and care for themselves at home. Approximately 15 people out of 100 will develop more severe symptoms and require hospital-level care. The rate is higher among older adults.

[Our COVID-19 tracker contains the most recent information on Maine cases by county]

Several great tools can help you identify next steps if you think you might have contracted COVID-19. The first is the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “ Self-Checker,” a simple web-based tool that helps you make decisions about the need for medical care based on your symptoms.

Additionally, the U.S. CDC has partnered with Apple to create a COVID-19 application (“app”) for iPhone users. Unfortunately, there is not yet a similar smartphone app for Android users, but the same information can be accessed through a web-based version of the COVID-10 app.

The Self-Checker tool and the app both guide you through a series of questions about your health and COVID-19 exposure to help determine if you should get testing and/or seek care. They also provide CDC recommendations on next steps, including guidance on self-isolating, how to closely monitor symptoms, whether testing is indicated, and when to contact a medical provider.

Not everyone has a phone or can easily use web-based tools. That’s why Maine has expanded its 211 service to answer general COVID-19 questions. Calls, texts, and emails to 211 are answered 24/7 by a person here in the state. If you have basic questions, call 211 (or 1-866-811-5695), text your ZIP code to 898-211, or email

Those with additional medical questions or who feel they need to be seen by a health care provider are encouraged to contact their primary care provider. While most primary care practices have limited staff and/or hours during this pandemic, they are generally still available for consultation through phone or telehealth visits. If you feel you need to be seen in person, call your health care provider to ask first; calling before going to a health care setting is particularly important if you have a cough or fever, as you may be directed to a specific location.

As always, if you are having a medical emergency such as severe shortness of breath, chest pain, or new confusion, it’s always best to call 911 and to get the help you need urgently.

You can protect your health by taking the same preventive measures that help to avoid catching a cold, such as washing your hands often for 20 seconds and covering coughs and sneezes. Adhere to physical distancing, which includes staying home whenever possible, staying 6 feet away from others, and using phones or other media to chat with friends and loved ones rather than meeting face to face.

These can be frightening times. Even greater challenges could be on the horizon. But by arming ourselves with the information and tools we need, we can be ready to get the right care, at the right time, and at the right place. By doing our part to educate ourselves and our family members now, we will do what Mainers do best — work together to face this challenge and stay Maine strong.

Dr. Lisa Letourneau is a clinical adviser at the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

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