WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — In August, the federal government purchased 150 million units of Abbott Labs' BinaxNOW diagnostic COVID-19 tests after they were granted an Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) says the initial distribution of the tests to states is "well underway," ensuring governors "will not have to compete for the initial BinaxNOW shipments or waste precious time to set up individual purchasing contracts with the manufacturer."
Maine is set to receive a total of 400,000 of the "state-of-the-art" test, which can diagnose the coronavirus in as little as fifteen minutes. The tests will be distributed at the discretion of Gov. Janet Mills to support testing K-12 students, teachers, nursing home patients and staff, higher education, critical infrastructure, first responders, and other priorities as she deems fit.
As of Monday, more than 108,000 tests have so far been shipped to Maine.
“To facilitate the continued re-opening of Maine schools, businesses and economy, the Trump Administration has prioritized scaling up the state’s point of care testing capacity by making this $760 million national investment in BinaxNOW tests,” Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett Giroir, MD., said in a release. “Distributing these rapid tests directly to states is consistent with the Trump Administration’s successful, ongoing approach of testing the right person, with the right test at the right time, is working and the effort will continue until the pandemic is under control.”
The Maine DHHS says on its own, the Mills administration has built a "robust" testing strategy, which is currently operating at 568 percent of its testing target—the best in the country, according to the New York Times.
Mills struck a deal IDEXX Laboratories Inc. back in May that allowed Maine to become one of the first states in the country to eliminate its testing prioritization and issue a standing order allowing anyone in Maine to be tested.
Giroir said that testing does not substitute for avoiding crowded indoor spaces, washing one’s hands, or wearing a mask when not able to physically distance.
“Combining personal responsibility with smart testing is a foundational pillar of the Administration’s national testing strategy," Giroir said.