Department also awards $1 million to boost rural hospital lab capacity and opens second round of Keep Maine Healthy grants for municipalities
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced today four additional COVID-19 “swab and send” testing sites, the award of $1 million in federal funding to rural hospitals to increase their labs’ capacity to process COVID-19 tests, and a second round of grants to municipalities under the Keep Maine Healthy Plan to support local COVID-19 public health, education, and prevention efforts.
“While Maine people have made great progress in mitigating the spread of this dangerous virus, we cannot let our guard down now,” said Governor Janet Mills. “These positive steps build on our Administration’s work to expand access to testing and to support municipalities as they fight on the frontlines to keep people safe and healthy.”
“Maine people are to be commended for keeping the state’s COVID-19 infection rates among the lowest in the nation, but we must continue our robust response to the pandemic,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “The actions announced today will further expand access to testing for residents and visitors, position our rural hospitals to increase lab capacity at a critical time, and enhance the valuable work of Maine municipalities in promoting the health of their communities.”
DHHS is finalizing agreements this week with four additional “swab and send” sites, in addition to the 18 sites announced last week, bringing the statewide total to 22. The sites will send samples to the Maine CDC’s Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory (HETL) for testing, strengthening access to safe and accessible testing for residents, tourists, seasonal workers, and other visitors to Maine. They will offer specimen collection free of charge to any individuals who believe they may have COVID-19 or could have been exposed to the virus, with or without symptoms, as defined under the DHHS Standing Order. The sites operate under several models, including drive up, drive through, mobile, and office settings. They typically require an appointment.
DHHS is finalizing agreements with the following four additional organizations:
- City of Westbrook
- Redington-Fairview General Hospital, Skowhegan
- Penobscot Valley Hospital, Lincoln
- York County Community Action Corp./Nasson Health Care, Sanford
Some of the swab and send sites are already in operation while others are coming online. As part of the Administration's vast expansion of testing capacity announced last month, DHHS formally invited applications that will use federal grant funding to support the establishment of these specimen collection sites and testing of their samples at HETL. The full list of current and proposed swab and send sites is below.
Penobscot Valley Hospital anticipates starting its swab and send site on Monday.
“We are very happy the Department is working with Penobscot Valley Hospital to be able to adapt to the evolving needs of our community during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Crystal Landry, RN, CEO of Penobscot Valley Hospital. “Especially during these challenging times, providing local care and testing for the Lincoln Lakes Region remains our priority. The Swab and Send testing site, under the standing order, strengthens access to testing which is a key piece in ensuring our community stays safe and healthy.”
“Nasson Health Care welcomes the opportunity to work with the Maine CDC to improve access to coronavirus testing in York County,” said Martin Sabol, Director of Health Services at Nasson Health Care. “We now limit testing to only Nasson patients but plan to welcome community members in the next few weeks. We feel privileged to be working in Maine where strong public health leadership and reasonable prevention measures have kept the impact of COVID-19 low relative to many other states.”
The City of Westbrook plans to begin operating its swab and send site within the next week.
“Having this resource enhances testing capacity not only citywide, but statewide and will allow any resident, regardless of their background, financial status, or any other limiting factor to have the ability to test,” said Westbrook Fire Chief and Local Health Officer Andrew Turcotte. “Reducing those barriers to testing is critical to our public health response as we all work to defeat this pandemic.”
“We are excited to work and partner with DHHS with the Swab & Send program as we all work collaboratively, in our combined efforts to combat this pandemic,” said Westbrook Mayor Mike Foley.
Redington-Fairview expects to begin offering testing under the swab and send agreement in two to three weeks.
“We are pleased to be able to offer this service for members of our community and Somerset County,”said Lindsay Webber, Director of Laboratory Services at Redington-Fairview General Hospital.
These 22 sites complement the roughly 40 current testing sites already available to the public. DHHS aims to further increase the number of testing sites outside of health care office settings and continues to accept applications for the swab and send effort to ensure access throughout Maine.
The swab and send sites help Maine meet the primary goal of the $52.7 million in federal funding the Mills Administration announced in May: to enhance prevention, detection, and mitigation of the spread of COVID-19 in Maine. DHHS is also announcing today action on the second goal of bolstering capacity at labs operated by Maine’s rural hospitals. DHHS is awarding a total of $1 million to 25 hospitals to expand laboratory capacity to help them respond to COVID-19 and other infectious disease outbreaks.
Finally, DHHS is announcing a second opportunity for Maine municipalities and Tribal governments to apply for funding under the Keep Maine Healthy plan. Following the award of almost $9 million earlier this month to nearly 100 cities and towns, DHHS is now awarding an additional $4 million to incentivize municipalities and Tribal governments to develop and implement their own COVID-19 prevention, education and protection plans. The initiative will reimburse municipal costs associated with public health education and prevention activities. Municipal plans, supported with Coronavirus Relief Funds from the CARES Act, aim to help keep Maine people and visitors safe from COVID-19 through public education activities, physical distancing and public health support, and local business assistance.
Round two of the Keep Maine Healthy grant program will cover expenses incurred from August 1 – October 31, 2020, with applications due to Maine CDC by Friday July 31, 2020.
COVID-19 testing site details
Some of the organizations operating swab and send sites, as well as other organizations, are offering testing at additional sites outside of the swab and send agreement with DHHS. For a complete and frequently updated list of all COVID-19 testing sites in Maine, visit Get-Tested-COVID19.org.
The 22 current and proposed DHHS-sponsored swab and send sites are:
- Bangor: Northern Light
- Brewer: PCHC (currently operational)
- Old Town: PCHC (currently operational)
- Augusta: MaineGeneral (currently operational)
- Portland: Northern Light
- South Portland: Northern Light
- Belfast: PCHC (currently operational)
- Ellsworth: Northern Light
- Blue Hill: Northern Light
- Dover-Foxcroft: Northern Light
- Presque Isle: Northern Light
- Calais: Calais Regional Hospital (currently operational)
- Greenville: Northern Light
- Waterville: Northern Light
- Pittsfield: Northern Light
- Bar Harbor: MDI Hospital (currently operational for frontline workforce testing for participating businesses)
- Fort Kent: Northern Maine Medical Center
- Westbrook: City of Westbrook
- Skowhegan: Redington-Fairview General Hospital
- Lincoln: Penobscot Valley Hospital
- Sanford: York County Community Action Corp./Nasson Health Care
- Mobile site: Promerica Health
The Department is also separately supporting York Hospital in its drive-through point-of-care testing site which has been open since July 1, 2020.