Maine CDC eliminates COVID-19 testing prioritization, expands testing to anyone suspected of having COVID-19

Mon, 05/18/2020 - 2:00pm

    AUGUSTA — Governor Janet Mills announced Monday the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) has eliminated its testing prioritization system and is now allowing health care providers in Maine to seek testing for anyone they suspect of having COVID-19.

    The elimination of the system is primarily driven by the Mills Administration’s agreement with IDEXX that more than triples the State’s testing capacity, a press release stated.

    That expansion is now operational, allowing Maine CDC to notify health care providers today of significantly increased access to in-state testing for anyone suspected of having the disease, which includes people with symptoms as well as those who have had significant, close contact with a person with COVID-19, such as a spouse, per the release. 

    “The elimination of the testing prioritization system, driven largely by our expanded testing capacity in partnership with IDEXX, is a welcome step forward for Maine,” said Governor Janet Mills. “As a result, more Maine people will have access to testing and we can begin to implement spot-check testing protocols being developed by the Maine CDC. My Administration will continue to work to expand testing capacity in the coming weeks.”

    “IDEXX has been a great partner in helping Maine CDC expand our lab’s testing capacity,” said Dr. Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine CDC. “Because of this expanded capacity, health care providers in Maine will now be able to get results quickly for a lot more patients, including individuals who might not be exhibiting symptoms but who had close contact with confirmed cases.”

    Prior to Monday’s change, Maine CDC had implemented a testing prioritization system for individuals in high-risk categories, as most state labs have done due to the limited national supply of testing materials.

    Under the previous system, individuals who were tested must have been symptomatic (fever or respiratory symptoms) and fall into one of the following high-risk categories: 1) those who are hospitalized; 2) health care workers; 3) first responders; 4) those living in a congregate setting; 5) patients older than 60 years; and 6) patients with underlying medical conditions.

    Under the new alert sent to health care providers Monday, the State has eliminated these categories to allow for testing of all people in Maine with symptoms as well as people without symptoms who may be at risk of transmitting COVID-19 to others, including close contacts of confirmed cases, health care workers in contact with a confirmed case, and people tested as part of voluntary sentinel disease surveillance plan under development by the Maine CDC.

    “The breakthrough will also allow the State to continue to implement universal testing in congregate living settings with an outbreak, such as nursing facilities and shelters,” the release read.

    This change stems primarily from the Administration’s agreement with IDEXX to purchase enough of its FDA-authorized test kits to run at least 5,000 tests per week for the foreseeable future.

    Taken in combination with Maine CDC’s prior capacity of 2,000 tests per week and additional work to expand testing capacity, the partnership with IDEXX more than triples the State of Maine’s testing capacity, according to the release. 

    These tests are in addition to those conducted for Maine residents by nongovernmental labs in and outside of the state.

    Additionally, IDEXX has lent a testing instrument to the Maine CDC’s laboratory to help accommodate the higher testing volume and has generously donated enough test kits to conduct 3,500 tests. The tests are being run at Maine CDC’s Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory in Augusta.

    “The Mills Administration is continuing its efforts to secure more testing as part of its ongoing commitment to Maine’s public health,” the release stated.