Next month most Mainers will have access to a new COVID-19 test that detects infections in 15 minutes.
The state has begun receiving what will eventually be 400,000 Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 point-of-care antigen tests as part of an allocation to the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Maine Department of Health and Human Services officials said in a statement on Thursday.
The tests will start becoming widely available in November, but no exact date was announced. DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew called the tests “a new layer of protection for Maine people as we remain vigilant against this virus.”
The Maine Department of Corrections, which is battling an outbreak at its prison in Windham, has already deployed them. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has sent tests to some congregate-care providers in Maine such as nursing homes, officials said.
The rest of the first 100,000 tests are going to Mainers who are symptomatic or at elevated risk of exposure, including medical workers who care for coronavirus patients “in high risk settings.” Critical infrastructure workers, such as police, are also getting them.
The rest of the tests, about 300,000, will be available to Mainers at 65 Walgreens pharmacies from Kittery to Madawaska, Maine’s DHHS issued a preliminary award to Walgreens after seeking price quotes from potential distributors and is finalizing an agreement with the retail pharmacy now, officials said.
The tests can detect COVID-19 from a nasal swab in 15 minutes, officials said.
Distribution will finish in December. Organizations looking to administer the tests on behalf of the state can apply here for an allocation.
Maine’s testing capacity leads the nation and it was among the first states in the nation to issue a standing order allowing residents who think they need a test to get one.
Maine has already established more than two dozen “swab and send” testing sites that offer free tests, as well as 40 more sites already available to the public, officials said.
A list of sites available to Mainers without symptoms and without a provider referral is available at the Keep Maine Healthy website.