Maine Department of Health and Human Services will distribute the tests to Walgreens pharmacies, schools, health care sites, and congregate care settings in January and February
Governor Janet Mills announced today that the Maine Department of Health and Human Services has purchased an additional 250,000 COVID-19 rapid antigen tests from Maine-based manufacturer Abbott Labs and will distribute them to Walgreens pharmacies, health care sites, schools, and congregate care settings across Maine in January and February. This purchase of rapid antigen tests is one of the largest ever by the State and represents nearly a quarter of all the rapid tests the State has made available since the beginning of the pandemic.
The Department of Health and Human Services ordered the additional BinaxNOW rapid antigen tests to increase the availability of free tests for all Maine residents administered at Walgreens pharmacy locations across the state. Additionally, these rapid tests will support the testing of Maine’s health care workforce, school staff, and students through the pooled testing program, as well as staff and residents of congregate settings, such as homeless shelters, long-term care facilities, and correctional facilities.
“Widely available, accessible, and affordable COVID-19 testing is crucial to detecting COVID-19 and reducing its spread,” said Governor Janet Mills. “With Maine, like the rest of the nation, experiencing a shortage of tests, this purchase will increase the supply and availability of tests across the state and help keep Maine people healthy. My Administration will continue to work hard to expand testing options, including looking at options to distribute tests directly to Maine people. First and foremost, however, I urge all Maine people to get vaccinated and boosted and to wear a mask when in indoor public places.”
“These rapid COVID-19 tests will help increase the availability of testing across Maine as well as in hospitals, schools, and similar settings,” said Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) Director Nirav D. Shah. “While this is a step in the right direction, we will continue to work to make testing more easily and readily available across Maine to detect the virus early and prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
As discussed on Wednesday during the Maine CDC briefing, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the Maine CDC, in partnership with the Maine Emergency Management Agency and Maine National Guard, will begin offering drive-through COVID-19 testing at the Augusta Armory, on days when vaccination is not occurring, beginning Monday, January 10. Hours and dates of operation may vary from week to week and testing at the Augusta Armory will be available by appointment only. COVID-19 vaccination will continue to be available at the Augusta Armory on a drop-in basis, with no appointment required.
The Department is also supporting an expansion of COVID-19 testing at Westbrook Fire and Rescue at 570 Main
e Street, run by its Emergency Management Services (EMS). This site also offers testing by appointment only.
Both the Armory site and Westbrook EMS will offer a saliva-based PCR test, building on the Department’s existing partnership with Shield T3 Health, which also supports testing for the University of Maine System, among other organizations. Test samples from the Armory will be processed by the University of Maine’s mobile laboratory in Orono. Shield T3 Health tests can detect all the known variants of COVID-19, including Delta and Omicron. This will add 344 additional available tests per day starting next week.
Also a new Curative testing site at the Portland Jetport is now open, currently offering at least 250 tests per day. Curative will additionally begin offering testing at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland on January 12, 2022. Taken together, this means that nearly 900 additional PCR tests per day will be available, in addition to the additional rapid antigen tests that will be administered by Walgreens.
Information about how to make a testing appointment at the Armory and elsewhere across the State is available on Maine’s COVID-19 testing website.
To date, the Department of Health and Human Services has provided 1,079,940 rapid antigen tests to these and other settings, also including child care providers, retail pharmacies, and community-based organizations, through ongoing distributions to ensure access to testing among populations with an elevated risk of COVID-19.
Maine DHHS and Maine CDC continue to add COVID-19 testing options – and, at the direction of Governor Mills, are evaluating potential options to distribute tests directly to Maine people.
Maine has also become a leader in pooled testing in schools. Pooled testing involves combining samples from individuals in a common group setting, such as a school, and has emerged as one of the most important tools in keeping pre-K-12 schools open and ensuring that Maine children can learn in person. As of this week, 427 K-12 schools with 61,923 staff and students were participating in pooled testing statewide. This represents 60 percent of Maine staff and students in participating schools. The Department of Health and Human Services’ pooled-testing contractor, Concentric, has reported that Maine's participation rate for schools enrolling in the program is one of the highest observed across the country. Concentric works with Maine and eight other states to provide pooled testing in schools. Additional schools, students, and staff are encouraged to participate in this program, which DHHS provides at no cost.
On January 5, 2022, Maine also hit a new COVID-19 milestone. According to the U.S. CDC tracker, 80.0 percent of eligible Maine residents, ages 5 and older, have been fully vaccinated. Maine is the third state in the nation, after Vermont and Rhode Island, to achieve this level of vaccination.