AUGUSTA, Maine — The state of Maine said Tuesday it will distribute 250,000 rapid coronavirus tests to schools after giving all counties the green light to have in-person learning.
The announcement last week that all counties would be able to have in-person learning if desired was the first time since September schools across the state had that status. The news comes as case counts, although higher than in September, have been falling in recent weeks.
The Abbott Laboratories BinaxNOW tests are expected to arrive over the next three months. The move will allow schools to test more frequently for the virus, which can be spread by people without symptoms. The state says that will help it monitor close contacts of people exposed to people with COVID-19, preventing them from having to quarantine for 10 days.
Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said new cases of the virus have been relatively few in the state and that only 5 percent of schools had active outbreaks as of Feb. 11. She said the state is asking “swab and send” sites to prioritize school employees and students seeking test results.
It is unclear when teachers and educational staff will be able to be vaccinated. They are mentioned in the later part of the state’s Phase 1B, which is currently ongoing and largely limited to Mainers 70 and older, but the state has not finalized who will be in that group.