A rapid COVID-19 test swab is processed at Palos Verdes High School in Palos Verdes Estates, Calif., Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021. Credit: Brittany Murphy / The Orange County Register via AP

A major Bangor-area medical provider will restrict COVID-19 rapid tests to its employees and other essential workers so it can preserve testing capacity. Demand for tests has surged in recent weeks amid a rise in cases due to the contagious delta variant.

Penobscot Community Health Care will cease rapid testing for travelers who need proof of a negative test, the organization announced Thursday, citing low testing supplies for rapid and PCR tests. PCHC has medical offices throughout the Bangor area.

Travelers in need of rapid tests will be referred elsewhere, the organization said.

“The incredibly transmissible variant of COVID is even causing breakthrough infections in vaccinated people and threatens those who cannot be vaccinated, including kids under 12 and medically frail people,” said Dr. Noah Nesin, PCHC’s chief medical officer. “So we need to make testing a priority for those who must work in hospitals, schools and other essential areas.”

Symptomatic patients will still be tested, and results will be sent to an outside lab for analysis, which will cause delays of a few days, PCHC said.

PCHC joins other health care organizations that have stopped administering COVID-19 tests for travel purposes. Last month, two hospitals in Aroostook County, on the Canadian border, said  they had stopped tests for travel due to demand for tests from those who had fallen ill.

Lia Russell

Lia Russell is a reporter on the city desk for the Bangor Daily News. Send tips to LRussell@bangordailynews.com.