Expanded testing allows Maine health care providers to test more people beginning today
Governor Janet Mills announced today that 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.
Under the new alert sent to health care providers today, 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.
Dr. Shah has repeatedly said at press briefings that household transmission of COVID-19 is a big player in the spread of the virus in Maine. New Mainer working groups led by Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, Immigrant Resource Center, Catholic Charities of Maine Refugee and Immigration Services, and New Mainers Immigrant Health Initiative, among others, have identified living conditions in the communities they represent as a key concern. Because many immigrants work at low-wage jobs, and rent is expensive in Maine, housing is often shared, which makes residents vulnerable during this highly contagious pandemic. With the elimination of the testing prioritization system, household members living with someone who has tested positive will qualify for testing.
Prior to today’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. The elimination of the system is primarily driven by the Mills Administration’s agreement with IDEXX that more than triples the State’s texting capacity. 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.
The Mills Administration is continuing its efforts to secure more testing. Additionally, the Administration continues to press the Federal government to ensure that health care providers have a reliable and adequate supply of materials, such as personal protective equipment and swabs to collect samples from patients for testing.
As of May 18, Maine is reporting 1,713 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 1,053 individuals recovered, and 71 deaths. Four counties report community transmission, including Cumberland, York, Androscoggin, and Kennebec. Community leaders in Androscoggin County are deeply concerned that cases have been increasing in recent days. Meetings between city officials and other community leaders are ongoing.