New cases of COVID-19 are outpacing the state’s ability to contact trace, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced Monday.
The spike means that the state will no longer continue to stay in touch with people who test positive for the disease beyond their first contact with state investigators, Maine CDC director Nirav Shah said.
He said the change will allow investigators to focus on people who are tied to outbreaks.
“The virus is moving faster and spreading faster than the ability of states to train and deploy new public health investigators,” Shah said.
He said the state has increased its contact tracing workforce by 40 percent for a total of 142 employees over the past two weeks.
But positive cases have increased by 60 percent over roughly the same period.
As states prepare for the potential rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, Shah said more federal funding will be needed to distribute it across the state.
The funding concern is shared by multiple public health directors across the U.S. who are already drafting plans to store, track and administer the vaccine when it becomes available.
“What is at stake here, and the reason we need the funding, is really to make sure we can vaccinate both with velocity, as well as to make sure we can vaccinate equitably,” Shah said.
Exactly what funding is needed could hinge on which vaccines are approved to by the Food and Drug Administration.
One vaccine from drug giant Pfizer requires ultracold storage, a requirement that could make it harder to distribute in rural areas.
Another vaccine from Moderna does not need that same level of freezing. Instead, it will require a robust staff of vaccinators and tracking systems for inventory and correct dosage.
States and territories have asked Congress for $8 billion for vaccine deployment.
The Maine CDC reported 186 new cases Monday, as well as 103 current hospitalizations. Of those patients, 45 are in intensive care units and 11 are on ventilators.
One more person also died from COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the total number of deaths in Maine to 177.
Steve Mistler, Maine Public. Maine Public reporter Patty Wight contributed to this story.
This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.