AUGUSTA — The Mills Administration announced Tuesday seven health care organizations will collectively launch nearly 20 “swab and send” COVID-19 test collection sites that will send samples to the Maine State Lab for testing, strengthening access to safe and accessible testing for residents, tourists, seasonal workers, and other visitors to Maine.
The 18 drive-through, drive up, and mobile specimen collection sites, under agreements with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, 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.
This includes health care and hospitality workers, people of color given known racial disparities in COVID-19, those who have participated in large gatherings, and visitors from other states with a higher prevalence of COVID-19 than in Maine, among others.
Under the Standing Order, these individuals at elevated risk may get tested without an order from a health care provider.
Some of the sites are already in operation, while others will come online in the next two weeks, according to a news release.
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 the State’s Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory (HETL), per the release.
“Expanding access to testing is critical to keeping COVID-19 infection rates in Maine relatively low,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “Creating Maine-based testing capacity is especially important as national laboratories struggle to handle other states’ surge of COVID-19 cases. It prevents the Maine State lab from experiencing the shortages of testing supplies and re-agents that occurred early in the pandemic. We thank these health care organizations for partnering with us to continue to protect the health of Maine people and visitors.”
DHHS is finalizing agreements with the following organizations:
- Northern Light Health
- Penobscot Community Health Care (PCHC)
- MaineGeneral Medical Center
- Mount Desert Island Hospital
- Calais Regional Hospital
- Northern Maine Medical Center (NMMC)
- Promerica Health LLC
The swab and send sites are or will be available in Bangor, Brewer, Old Town, Augusta, Portland, South Portland, Belfast, Ellsworth, Blue Hill, Dover-Foxcroft, Presque Isle, Calais, Greenville, Waterville, Pittsfield, Bar Harbor, and Fort Kent.
Additional mobile sites will also launch within the next two weeks. The Department is working with other organizations to stand up additional swab and send sites to improve access throughout Maine. A map of the existing and proposed testing sites is attached and the full list is below.
Some of the participating health care organizations 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 18 swab and send testing sites represent a variety of models. Promerica Health, a Falmouth-based health engagement company, will deploy its mobile health vehicles to underserved areas. MDI Hospital is partnering with employers to test asymptomatic frontline workers beginning July 20. Other organizations have adapted quickly to provide drive up or drive-through testing on or near their existing health care facilities.
PCHC’s swab and send sites are already operational in Brewer, Old Town, and Belfast.
“PCHC is proud to be a swab and send COVID testing site,” said Lori Dwyer, President and CEO of PCHC. “Having convenient access to testing sites and relatively quick results is critical to ensuring Maine can continue its strong public health response to the pandemic and help keep as many people as possible safe and healthy.”
“As the Kennebec Valley’s largest health care provider, MaineGeneral is proudly supporting our community during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Chuck Hays, President & CEO of MaineGeneral Health. “We greatly appreciate our collaboration with state and other health care providers during these unprecedented times. We are pleased to aid in the reopening of the state by expanding testing resources to asymptomatic people, in accordance with the Maine Department of Health & Human Services Standing Order. Such testing will be done separate from other COVID-19 testing we are doing across our health system, starting Monday, July 20. Details of the process – including the testing location, hours of operation and instructions to call and reserve a test – are available at www.mainegeneral.org.”
These 18 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.
DHHS will support testing of samples from the swab and send sites at HETL through an expanded partnership with Maine-based IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. Under the partnership, a new mobile lab anchored at the State lab in Augusta will quadruple current testing capacity in the coming weeks.
A recent analysis by the Harvard Global Health Institute ranked Maine fifth in the nation for its testing compared to a measure of sufficiency. Maine's existing testing activity already far exceeds the U.S. CDC recommended minimum of testing 2 percent of the population per month. In June, the state's public and private labs conducted nearly 45,000 tests, surpassing the minimum by approximately 75 percent. As of July 13, Maine ranked, on a population-adjusted basis, 6th lowest on cases, 5th lowest on hospitalizations of 36 states reporting them, 9th lowest on deaths, and 3rd highest on the percent of people recovered out of 45 states reporting.
The 18 current and proposed swab and send sites are:
- Bangor – Northern Light
- Brewer – PCHC
- Old Town – PCHC
- Augusta – MaineGeneral
- Portland – Northern Light
- South Portland – Northern Light
- Belfast – PCHC
- Ellsworth – Northern Light
- Blue Hill – Northern Light
- Dover-Foxcroft – Northern Light
- Presque Isle – Northern Light
- Calais – Calais Regional Hospital
- Greenville – Northern Light
- Waterville – Northern Light
- Pittsfield – Northern Light
- Bar Harbor – MDI Hospital
- Fort Kent – Northern Maine Medical Center
- Mobile site – Promerica Health