Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah speaks during a press briefing in Augusta in this March 23, 2020, file photo. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Maine is launching a new text messaging service to alert people who test positive for the coronavirus, the latest step the state has taken to adapt outreach as cases have surged over the past few months.

With the new system, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention will send a text message to people who test positive, informing them to isolate for 10 days and notify close contacts who may have been exposed. The message will come from the number 22300 and people must opt in to receive them.

TRACKING THE CORONAVIRUS IN MAINE

The program follows the agency’s announcement earlier this month that it would scale back contact tracing to focus on health care workers and vulnerable people as rising case numbers made it impossible to contact trace every case. Earlier in the pandemic, state contact tracers attempted to call every Mainer who tested positive for the virus.

The virus has surged in Maine over the past two months, with a record 753 cases recorded on Wednesday, though Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, cautioned that the spike did not represent an acceleration of the virus but instead improved testing procedures at the state’s lab. December is still on track to be the deadliest month of the pandemic, with 82 deaths already.

The text messaging is in addition to, not a replacement of, the Maine CDC’s current outreach efforts. Shah said Wednesday that the agency hoped to reach people who tested positive sooner, saying “time is of the essence” to prevent the spread of the virus.