Who should get tested?
Current US CDC guidance indicates the following people should get tested for COVID-19:
- People who have symptoms of COVID-19.
- People who have come into close contact with someone with COVID-19 should be tested to check for infection at least 5 days after they last had close contact with someone with COVID-19. The date of the last close contact is considered day 0.
- People not fully vaccinated with COVID-19 vaccine who are prioritized for expanded community screening for COVID-19.
- People not fully vaccinated with COVID-19 vaccine who have been asked or referred to get testing by their school, workplace, healthcare provider, state, tribal, or territorial health department.
What to do if you test positive
If you've tested positive and have symptoms, early treatment to prevent severe disease may be available for you. Learn more about treatment options and how to access medicines either through your health care provider or at one of Maine's test-to-treat sites. If you're at high risk for severe disease, treatment within the first 5 days of symptoms is important even if you only have mild symptoms right now.
Types of COVID-19 Tests
Rapid Antigen Tests
Antigen tests, also called rapid tests, detect specific proteins on the surface of the coronavirus.
- Rapid antigen tests are best for individuals experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 within the first 3-5 days of symptom onset, or those who have been exposed to COVID-19.
- Results of rapid antigen tests may be available in as little as 15 to 45 minutes.
- Rapid antigen tests are currently used in doctors’ offices, nursing homes, schools, congregate-care settings, and workplaces as well as at home as self-collected tests.
- Please see below for important information about taking at-home self-collected rapid antigen tests.
- The State of Maine is partnering with Walgreens to provide free rapid antigen testing that is administered on site at Walgreens locations statewide. For more information, see Walgreens testing information.
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests detect viral RNA, or the genetic material of the virus and are considered a gold standard for the detection of COVID-19.
- PCR tests can detect infection in both symptomatic and asymptomatic people.
- PCR tests are always processed in a laboratory, which means the results will typically take between 24-72 hours.
- Specimen collection can be conducted by a health care provider or through a self-collection process.
- Samples for PCR tests are typically taken from saliva or nose swabs.Most Walgreens locations are participating in a Federal program to provide free PCR testing to individuals who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, those who have been exposed to COVID-19, and those who are at high-risk of severe outcomes, including pregnant people. Those who do not fit these criteria will be charged a fee. For more information, see Walgreens testing information.
- Other commercial pharmacies may charge a fee or process insurance for PCR testing.
At-Home Self Testing
At-home rapid antigen tests use a self-collection process, unless the individual is very young, in which case a parent or guardian can collect the sample.
All steps in these tests are performed at home and require a sample from inside the nose or a saliva sample.
At-home test results are not reported to Maine CDC, however a positive at-home test should be taken as confirmation of infection. It is not necessary to confirm a positive at-home test with a PCR test.
Individuals who test positive using an at-home test should follow US CDC guidance for isolation and inform any close contacts. If you've tested positive with an at-home test, early treatment to prevent severe disease may be available for you. Learn more about treatment options and how to access medicines, even if you're only experiencing mild symptoms.
Important information about at-home testing:
- At-home tests are used to detect a current infection.
- All instructions for performing the test must be followed.
- At-home tests can be used by anyone who is symptomatic regardless of their vaccination status.
- Unvaccinated persons with no COVID-19 symptoms can also use at-home tests, especially if they were potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19.
- At home tests remain stable when stored at various temperature but should only be used at room temperature.
For more information about the use of at-home COVID-19 tests, please review Maine CDC’s At-Home, Self-Collection Testing Guidance (PDF).
How can I get an at-home test?
- At-home tests can be purchased over the counter without a prescription at pharmacies, retail stores, or online retailers.
- As of January 15, 2022, those with private insurance can be reimbursed for the cost of up to eight (8) at-home test kits, per covered individual, per month. Contact your health insurance company for more information.
- MaineCare members and parents of children covered by CubCare can obtain free at-home test kits at retail pharmacies that accept MaineCare. To use MaineCare benefits you must check out at the pharmacy counter with proof of MaineCare or CubCare coverage.
- Free at-home test kits are available at most federally qualified health centers. Contact your local health center for more information.
- Maine residents can order free kits with five (5) at-home rapid tests per household through DHHS’ partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation’s Project Access COVID Tests (Project ACT) program.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Will I be charged for a COVID-19 test?
Rapid Antigen Tests
The State of Maine is partnering with Walgreens to provide free rapid antigen testing that is administered on site at Walgreens locations statewide. For more information, see Walgreens testing information.
At-home self-collection test kits
- See at-home self-testing guidance above for information on obtaining free at-home testing kits.
- Most Walgreens locations are participating in a Federal program to provide free PCR testing to individuals who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, those who have been exposed to COVID-19, and those who are at high-risk of severe outcomes, including pregnant people. Those who do not fit these criteria will be charged a fee. For more information, see Walgreens testing information.
Other commercial pharmacies:
- Will bill insurance for those that are insured or submit for reimbursement.
- Individuals may be charged a fee for PCR testing at commercial pharmacies.
Independent providers, urgent cares, walk-in clinics, and hospitals:
- May charge or bill insurance for COVID-19 testing. Those without insurance may be responsible for any charge not covered by insurance.
- We encourage individuals to ask about cost when making an appointment or upon arrival for testing.
- What do I do if I test positive for COVID-19?
- Follow CDC guidance for isolation and inform any close contacts.
- Maine people affected by COVID-19 can access free social supports and services including food delivery, income and rent support, and shelter assistance during isolation and quarantine through the DHHS COVID-19 Community Supports Program
- Treatment is available for people with certain medical conditions who are at high risk for severe illness. Contact your health care provider to discuss options or visit the Maine COVID treatment site to find a provider. It is important to contact a provider as soon as possible after a positive test to determine if you may be eligible, even if your symptoms are mild right now.