November 1, 2021
COVID-19 testing is one of the most important and effective tools in Maine’s public health response to the coronavirus pandemic. As the nature of the pandemic has shifted, the emphasis on testing to identify and mitigate infection has been especially important for rural communities and areas with lower vaccination rates. Testing has also been instrumental in keeping schools open and to safely providing in-person instruction for Maine children.
DHHS is committed to ensuring access to COVID-19 testing across the state, despite the current challenges posed by increased demand coupled with supply-chain constraints. To this end, DHHS has partnered with communities and the private sector to support additional testing sites and is working closely with the Maine Department of Education (DOE) and school partners to achieve one of the more robust pooled-testing programs in the country.
Expanding testing access statewide
New testing and vaccination site opens today in Calais
DHHS and Maine CDC have partnered with the City of Calais to open a public testing and vaccination site at the Calais Community Recreation Center, located at 11 Academy Street in Calais. The site will be open Mondays and Tuesdays from 7 a.m.-12:30 p.m. beginning today, November 1. No appointment is necessary, and walk-ins are welcome.
- Both “swab and send” PCR and rapid testing will be available at the site beginning Monday, November 1.
- Primary COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots for individuals aged five and over will begin Monday, November 8. This site will provide the Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J vaccines for primary vaccinations and boosters for individuals aged 12 and over, as well as the pediatric Pfizer vaccine for primary vaccinations for those aged 5-11 when it is authorized for use in this age group.
- Both testing and vaccines are provided free of charge.
Westbrook Public Safety reopens high-volume testing site, add flu shots
DHHS has teamed up with Westbrook Fire & Rescue to provide PCR testing, as well as flu shots, to the public through a high-volume drive-through clinic located at 570 Main Street in Westbrook. This site is open Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Appointments are required and can be scheduled on the Westbrook Public Safety website. More information is available on the website or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
PCR testing now available at all Walgreens locations
As previously announced, Walgreens has contracted with the federal government to offer free PCR testing, which is now available at all Walgreens locations statewide along with rapid antigen testing. A list of Walgreens locations is available on the COVID-19 Testing in Maine website.
Maine leads in pooled testing for K-12 schools
Pooled testing, a method that involves combining samples from individuals in a common group setting such as a school, has emerged as one of the most important tools in keeping K-12 schools open and ensuring that Maine children can learn in person. Pooled testing allows schools to perform wide-scale testing of school communities efficiently and to easily identify positive cases in individuals who may be asymptomatic, notify close contacts, and reduce the number of children and staff who need to quarantine.
As of today, 495 K-12 schools – which represents 70 percent of all eligible Maine schools – are enrolled in pooled testing statewide. DHHS’ pooled-testing contractor, Concentric, has reported that Maine's participation rate for schools enrolling in the program is one of the highest they’ve observed across the country. Concentric works with Maine and eight other states to provide pooled testing in schools.
A recent example provided by Portland Public Schools, which currently has 75 percent of its K-6 population enrolled in pooled testing, illuminates the role that pooled testing plays in supporting healthy school environments. According to a recent update, Portland Public Schools noted that pooled testing allowed them to not only identify positive cases at East End Community School, but to drastically reduce the number of children who were required to quarantine as a result.
Parents interested in learning more about pooled testing or enrolling their children should contact their local school for more information.