Five rapid tests will be delivered directly to 25,000 households in vulnerable communities
Governor Janet Mills announced today the launch of a new pilot project with The Rockefeller Foundation to mail 125,000 free COVID-19 tests directly to the homes of Maine people most in need, improving access to testing in vulnerable Maine communities.
Through Project Access COVID Tests (ACT), 25,000 Maine households will receive five at-home rapid tests free of charge. No payment information is required — both the tests and shipping are free to eligible residents – and the tests will be delivered through Amazon approximately one week after ordering. The tests require a quick swab inside each nostril, with results available within minutes. Any individual over the age of two can use the tests.
Maine is one of six states partnering with The Rockefeller Foundation, a New York philanthropy, on Project ACT to increase access to testing as demand remains high due to the Omicron surge. The first phase of the pilot project begins today, with states encouraging eligible residents to order COVID-19 tests through the Project ACT website for home delivery. The program is limited to one order per residential address during this first phase of the project.
“Having convenient access to affordable, fast testing is an important tool to limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health of Maine people as we go about our daily lives,” said Governor Janet Mills. “I thank The Rockefeller Foundation for partnering with us to send free rapid tests directly to the homes of many Maine people as we continue to work alongside the Federal government to make testing more available to more folks.”
“This program will bring free, at-home tests to communities in need across Maine, helping to limit the spread of COVID-19 and keep Maine people healthy in the face of the Omicron surge,” said Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Nirav D. Shah. “We’re grateful to The Rockefeller Foundation for this partnership as we continue to work to make COVID-19 testing more easily and readily available.”
“The Rockefeller Foundation is proud to partner with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to launch Project ACT to bring COVID-19 tests to vulnerable communities across the state, including those living in rural areas,” said Andrew Sweet, Managing Director of COVID-19 Response and Recovery at The Rockefeller Foundation. “Too often a person’s ZIP code dictates their access to critical services. With Project ACT, eligible Mainers can sign up to receive rapid tests direct to their doorstep, increasing access to those at risk and helping reduce the spread in the community.”
Residents in approximately a quarter of all Maine ZIP codes are eligible for the free tests. Eligibility is based on ZIP codes that are the most socially vulnerable in Maine, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s social vulnerability index, with additional consideration given to rural ZIP codes with low vaccination rates and limited access to testing.
Social vulnerability refers to the potential negative effects on communities caused by external stresses on human health, including disease outbreaks. The U.S. CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index uses 15 U.S. census variables to help states and local officials identify communities that may need support before, during, or after disasters, like disease outbreaks. Utilizing these metrics allows these tests to be distributed to hard-to-reach rural communities at high risk. The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is partnering with community organizations throughout the state to conduct outreach to eligible residents. Any Maine resident can visit the Project ACT website, AccessCovidTests.org, to enter their ZIP code to determine their eligibility. A list of eligible ZIP codes is attached (PDF).
Project ACT builds on the Mills Administration’s work to expand access to COVID-19 testing and complements the Biden Administration’s recently launched national initiative that makes four free at-home COVID tests available to every home in Maine through COVIDtests.gov. The Mills Administration recently added three new testing sites in Windham, Biddeford, and Auburn. DHHS also announced on Wednesday that more than a dozen sites throughout the state will monitor wastewater for the virus that causes COVID-19, improving Maine’s ability to track the spread of the virus and tailor the state’s public health response.
Project ACT is supported by a $7.45 million investment from The Rockefeller Foundation that covers the costs for iHealth COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Tests and logistics and distribution managed by Amazon and Care Evolution. The other five states participating in the pilot are Arkansas, Illinois, Michigan, New Mexico, and Ohio.
In the second phase of Project ACT, the Foundation plans to scale the program to additional states, using its public charity, RF Catalytic Capital Inc., to pool funds, drive down costs, and support the procurement of a range of test types from different manufacturers over the long term. Maine plans to continue distributing at least the same volume of home tests paid for by The Rockefeller Foundation.
For more information on how to make a testing appointment is available on Maine’s COVID-19 testing website.