Maine CDC suspends school contact tracing recommendation, to review masks in March

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The Maine Department of Education and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) on Wednesday revised standard operating procedure for responding to a positive case of COVID-19 in schools by suspending contact tracing recommendations.

Previous guidelines allowed schools with universal masking policies to suspend contact tracing. Now, regardless of masking policies, schools can suspend contact tracing. Schools that have the resources to contact research can continue to do so.

These revisions follow other recent Maine CDC changes in light of the transmissibility of the Omicron variant.

Additionally, following meetings between the Maine Departments of Education and Health and Human Services and the Maine School Superintendent Association last week, state officials continue to evaluate potential additional changes to the policies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

Maine has largely followed US CDC recommendations, including for face coverings, over the past year. However, assuming no upcoming changes from the US CDC and continued favorable COVID-19 trends, Maine intends to release its own school prevention guidance after the February vacation, likely in early March.

As of fall 2020, all pre-K-12 schools in Maine offer in-person instruction to students. Throughout the pandemic, the Mills administration has promoted safe, in-person learning, dedicating $329 million in coronavirus relief funding to Maine schools to help them educate Maine students.

The administration also provided 10,859,586 masks, gloves and other types of personal protective equipment to Maine schools and supported COVID-19 testing in schools, including launching a group testing program.

Group testing guidelines were also streamlined in light of Omicron, and schools received BinaxNOW rapid antigen tests from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. The administration helped organize vaccination clinics for Maine school personnel and supported more than 500 vaccination clinics for schools and students last fall.

According to the Maine Immunization Dashboard, as of Feb. 15, 54.5 percent of children ages 5 to 19 were fully immunized against COVID-19. US CDC data shows Maine ranks sixth in the nation for the percentage of children ages 5 to 17 fully immunized. By the end of October, 83% of school staff were fully vaccinated.

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