AUGUSTA — Maine Center for Disease Prevention and Control Director Dr. Nirav Shah discussed new quarantine and isolation protocols during his Dec. 29 media briefing.

Those protocols shorten the length of time people must quarantine or isolate after being exposed to a person with COVID-19 or testing positive for the virus with no symptoms. The protocols are for the general public, not health care workers. The federal government issued new guidelines recently for health care workers.

If a person tests positive for COVID-19 and has no symptoms, the isolation period is five days rather than 10, but the person must wear a mask at all times around people for five days following the isolation period, Shah said.

If an unvaccinated person has been exposed or it has been more than six months since they were vaccinated and they have not had a booster shot, they must quarantine for five days and wear a mask at all times around people for the following five days. If a person is sick at all, they should stay home, he said.

If a person is vaccinated, they do not need to quarantine after a possible exposure to COVID-19, but they must adhere to strict mask-wearing at all times around people, Shah said. A person should get tested five days after a possible exposure, regardless of their vaccination status. He encouraged people to get vaccinated against the virus.

The guidelines will also apply to public school students, but officials are still considering when the new protocols will apply to schools.

Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said Gov. Janet Mills had announced a plan to increase Medicaid payment rates for nurses and residential care facilities starting Jan. 1, 2022.

Approved by lawmakers and signed into law by Mills earlier this year, it will improve rates, Lambrew said. It also addresses needed MaineCare reforms for direct care workers for home and community-based services, behavioral health and long-term care residential settings, she said.

“From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to today, our long-term care providers and their frontline staff have done amazing work in close partnership with the state of Maine to keep their residents safe from this deadly disease,” she said.

She added that the state will continue to collaborate with facilities to retain the state’s reputation as one of the best places in the country to age in.

Shah announced 18 new COVID-19 deaths, 10 men and eight women, but said 10 of those deaths occurred between Dec. 1 and Dec. 18. It brings the statewide death toll to 1,510. There are 144,538 positive cases in the state.

There are 331 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state right now, he said, with 109 patients in intensive care units. There are 53 people on ventilators. Hospitalization rates have decreased over the last two weeks, but Shah warned people not to take that as a sign that the virus is waning or straining hospitals any less.

“Our state’s temperature may have dropped from 105 degrees to 104 degrees,” he said. “We are still experiencing a very high and dangerous fever.”

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