In his press briefing Friday, Dec. 4, Dr. Nirav Shah, director of Maine Center for Disease Prevention and Control, announced a change in the state's policy regarding quarantine and reported on plans for vaccine distribution, in addition to giving updates on epidemiological information about the COVID-19 pandemic in Maine.

Shah said, in line with a recent report from the federal CDC that indicates 10 days is a sufficient period for people exposed to someone who has tested positive for the virus to quarantine, and after state scientists studied the evidence, the state has changed its definition of quarantine to 10 days rather than 14. He added that the CDC still recommends that people in quarantine get tested after five to seven days, and noted that a negative test does not shorten the quarantine period. He said the purpose of quarantine is to "break the chain of transmission," in order to control the spread of the virus.

He also announced that the state has placed its first vaccine order with the federal CDC and Operation Warp Speed. The order for the first week is for 12,675 doses, which the state has been informed will be the Pfizer vaccine. The doses will be divided among five hospitals in the state that have the required ultracold storage capability and capacity, plus the Maine CDC warehouse, with 975 doses going to each location. The remaining 6,825 doses will be sent to long-term care facilities in Maine. The first shipment could arrive as early as mid-December, with front-line health care workers, and shortly thereafter, residents of skilled nursing and long-term care facilities, being the the first to receive the shots.

Maine will get two more weekly shipments of 12,675 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, Shah said, and approximately 24,200 doses for the first week and 10,700 doses for the second of the vaccine created by Moderna, pending FDA authorization. He added that the vaccination effort will continue for "weeks, if not months," and will focus on "velocity and equity."

Saying the state is beginning to see a new spike-within-a-spike in cases resulting from Thanksgiving travel, Shah noted that Maine is experiencing "ferocious levels" of community transmission. "Things were already acute before, and they have become more so in just this week," he said.

He reported that 14 new outbreak investigations were begun Thursday and Friday, and four more people have died from COVID-19 since yesterday, including two from Androscoggin County, a woman in her 80s and a man in his 90s, a woman in her 50s from Oxford County and a man in his 80s from York County, bringing the state's death toll from the disease to 224.

Shah also reported that 219 people have been hospitalized in the past month alone, and 290 new cases were reported Friday.

He said in light of the terrible pace of new infections, the CDC would be making "difficult choices" about changes to its operations over the weekend, which he would announce Monday.

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