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CDC says new coronavirus, COVID-19 tests process will be big improvement

“Social distancing is the best vaccine we have,” said Dr. Shah said Wednesday.

AUGUSTA, Maine — As Maine's number of COVID-19 cases, and the number of deaths both increase, the Maine CDC is calling for even more focus on social distancing.

Maine CDC Director Dr. Nrav Shah said in Wednesday’s regular briefing that the increase in number of cases –344 as of Wednesday—is nearly the same as cases in New Hampshire. He said because of the long period that can occur between exposure to the virus and the appearance of symptoms, it's too early to know if social distancing is already having an impact on the number of cases. Despite that, he said Mainers are taking the distancing advice. 

He cited data from more than five dozen Maine DIOT traffic cameras that count vehicles, which show reductions in traffic from a year ago ranging from 10 percent to over 20 percent. He also referred to data from cell phone providers that also show more people are staying closer to home. 

“What we see is travel has gone down, physical distancing has gone up,” said Dr. Shah, noting the data has been especially significant in Cumberland County, where the impact of the virus has been the most severe.

“Social distancing is the best vaccine we have,” said Dr. Shah.

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But the Maine CDC is also getting another tool—a new, faster test for COVID 19. The agency announced it is getting 15 of the test devices from Abbot Labs, which has just had a new test method approved by the FDA. That test can reveal in minutes whether someone had the virus, far faster than the current testing method. The Abbot Labs test materials are being made at a facility in Maine, and Dr. Shah said the faster tests will help patients to quickly know if they have the virus, but will also help to conserve supplies of the protective equipment for health care workers because they won’t need to use as much of it.

“While waiting for that test result on that patient in the ER or the hospital, they have to assume they are positive and take all those precautions,” said Shah. “If we can shorten the time when someone comes with symptoms and when they get a negative test we can reduce that PPE use.”

The CDC is buying enough material for 2,400 tests for the time being and said it has material on hand for several thousand of the conventional tests as well. To date, the CDC said more than 8,000 people have tested negative for the COVID-19 virus.

At NEWS CENTER Maine, we're focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus

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