Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar listens as he is questioned by House Commerce subcommittee chair Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-California, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, during a hearing on the budget and the coronavirus threat. Credit: Susan Walsh | AP

The Maine Legislature’s budget committee has unanimously approved funding for the immediate purchase of a machine at the state laboratory that can test for the coronavirus.

Deputy Commissioner Ben Mann of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services said the new device will replace a 13-year-old unit that can’t test for the coronavirus.

“It’s a higher level, it performs tests quicker, and it can perform not only coronavirus extraction testing, but influenza A and B and a couple of others,” Mann said.

Lawmakers approved a financial order to allocate $58,000 in unspent federal funds to buy the new testing device, which DHHS officials say can be operational in a matter of days. Earlier this month, the state sent a sample from a potential coronavirus patent to the federal CDC in Atlanta, which came back negative.

“We had to because we did not have the equipment or the test kits or the procedures from federal CDC to actually perform that,” says Mann. “We took a sample, sent it into Atlanta, and it took about two and one-half days, and it came back negative.”

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.