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Rapid COVID-19 tests in Maine likely to run short without more federal funding

Abbott BinaxNOW tests (rapid antigen tests) will only be provided by the federal government through the end of the month, according to Maine DHHS commissioner.
Credit: NCM
Source: Abbott Laboratories

Maine health officials say supplies of rapid COVID-19 tests that recently became available at 65 pharmacies across the state are likely to end without additional funding by the federal government.

Results of the rapid tests can be available in 15 minutes or within hours. Regular tests in Maine usually take 24 to 48 hours or longer to come back. 

Maine received 400,000 rapid tests, produced by Abbott Laboratories, in the fall. Walgreens received 300,000 of the tests, and offer them free without a doctor's note, the Portland Press Herald reported. The remaining 100,000 were reserved for essential workers including teachers, paramedics, health care workers and corrections officers.

“The federal government has been providing us with Abbott BinaxNOW tests (rapid antigen tests),” Jeanne Lambrew, Maine’s health and human services commissioner, said. “That’s ending at the end of the month.”

Maine’s 27 “swab and send” sites could also be at risk if a deal in Congress is not reached, Jackie Farwell, Maine DHHS spokeswoman, said in a release.

Maine's entire Congressional delegation and Gov. Janet Mills convened a Zoom conference call Friday to discuss the delegation's work to support state efforts to secure additional state and local aid, increase testing availability and prepare for vaccine distribution, Mills and the delegation said in a release.

On Friday, Collins and King joined a bipartisan group of federal legislators to announce a COVID-19 bill that inludes funding for another round of Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans, increase unemployment benefits and provide state and local funding, according to a release from the delegation.

“After nearly nine months of the coronavirus pandemic and far too little federal support, millions of Americans are facing financial ruin. It’s past time for Congress to put political arguments aside and step up for those in need,” King said, in part. "This plan isn’t perfect, and will require future Congressional action in order to help our country fully weather this pandemic – but if we pass this bill before the year’s end, we’ll extend a lifeline to millions of Americans in need just as cases are spiking, CARES Act protections are expiring, and winter is arriving."

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