Posted July 15, 2020
July 14, 2020 - The Mills Administration announced today that 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 (DHHS), 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. 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).
"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 Northern Light Health, Penobscot Community Health Care (PCHC), MaineGeneral Medical Center, Mount Desert Island Hospital, Calais Regional Hospital, Northern Maine Medical Center (NMMC), and, 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.
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."
Calais Regional Hospital is also already providing swab and send testing for COVID-19.
"Our staff worked very hard developing a process to bring more availability to COVID-19 testing to our community members and those visiting our area," said Calais Regional Hospital CEO Rod Boula. "We know our community is nervous about the virus and the many changes it has brought, but we continue to be here for COVID-19 related concerns and the everyday healthcare needs of our community."
Additional sites will come online over the next two weeks. Northern Light Health expects to begin offering testing at 10 sites next week under the swab and send agreement.
"There are some additional details to be ironed out, but Northern Light Health is delighted to support the state in its plans to offer additional testing," said Tim Dentry, president and CEO of Northern Light Health. "We look forward to our continued collaboration and leveraging our statewide presence on behalf of all our residents."
"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."
"It's an honor to be selected by the Department of Health and Human Services to assist in conducting Maine's COVID-19 testing," said Steve Woods, president and CEO of TideSmart Global, Promerica Health's parent company. "Maine is our home and we view this DHHS program as an opportunity to help our friends and neighbors during this health crisis."
While Mount Desert Island Hospital is not a traditional swab and send site, the hospital has partnered with the Downeast COVID-19 Task Force and the State to implement a new asymptomatic frontline workforce testing pilot program beginning on July 20.
"We commend the state for working with our community and the Downeast COVID-19 Task Force to pilot this innovative testing model," said Chrissi Maguire, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Mount Desert Island Hospital. "By providing regular COVID-19 surveillance data for a subset of frontline employees throughout the summer season, this pilot will help protect not only our workforce but our greater community and our visitors as well."
NMMC in Fort Kent anticipates that it will begin offering swab and send testing in two weeks.
"After collaboration with state officials on an initiative to expand testing, NMMC is pleased to announce we are a COVID-19 testing swab and send specimen collection site," said NMMC COO Alain Bois. "This opportunity will enhance our ability to continue to safely reopen as well as allow for the public to make informed decisions as the state reopens."
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, and a mobile site - Promerica Health.