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Thousands of COVID-19 test kits distributed to 50+ Maine schools

The Maine CDC says at least 4,000 BinaxNOW rapid test kits are now in the hands of school nurses across the state to test symptomatic students and staff.

PORTLAND, Maine — As cases of COVID-19 continue to climb in Maine, some 4,000 rapid test kits have been distributed to schools statewide. 

The Abbot BinaxNOW antigen test kits are now in the hands of school nurses in at least 50 Maine schools, according to the Maine CDC and Dept. of Education. 

Here is a list of schools and districts that have applied and been approved:

  • Foxcroft Academy
  • Maine Central Institute
  • Hebron Academy
  • MSAD 7, North Haven Community School
  • Brewer School Department
  • Maine Behavioral Healthcare - Center for Autism and Developmental Disorders Special Purpose School
  • Town of Frenchboro
  • Monhegan Plantation
  • Regional School Unit 22
  • Chewonki Foundation
  • MSAD 53
  • Maine Academy of Natural Sciences
  • North Yarmouth Academy
  • Vassalboro Community School
  • Acadia Academy
  • Gould Academy
  • Sebago School Department
  • MSAD 32
  • School Union 93
  • Yarmouth School Department
  • Carrabassett Valley Academy
  • Sebago School Department
  • Cape Elizabeth School District
  • Dayton Consolidated School
  • Erskine Academy
  • RSU 26 Orono Schools
  • MSAD 72
  • Augusta School Department
  • MSAD No. 75
  • RSU19
  • John Bapst Memorial High School
  • Hancock Grammar School
  • RSU 14
  • Westbrook School Department
  • RSU 20
  • Windham High School RSU14
  • MSAD 15
  • Jordan Small Middle School
  • RSU 24
  • Kents Hill School
  • RSU 68
  • Biddeford School District
  • Glenburn School
  • Greater Portland Christian School
  • Morrison Center

"It's so incredibly comforting for the staff at the school," Jill Webber, a nurse at the William H. Rowe School in Yarmouth told NEWSCENTER Maine. 

Rowe and other nurses across the Yarmouth School Dept. have already tested students and staff showing symptoms of the virus over the last couple of weeks.

RELATED: Walgreens to open 52 more coronavirus testing sites across Maine

Compared to the traditional PCR test that often takes days to get results back, the Abbott kit uses a swab, card, and reagent to produce results in minutes. 

"We have a kid come down that has symptoms that are consistent with COVID—to be able to quickly do a test and know if that kid's positive or not," Webber said.

"This could be a game-changer for us," Yarmouth Superintendent Andrew Dolloff said. 

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

He said greater access to testing for schools is critical, especially as many in the state are struggling with staffing shortages. 

Dolloff said the wait for testing and results has lengthened quarantine periods in some cases, making those ongoing staffing issues even worse. 

So far he has only had to cancel classes twice at the town's high school due to staffing. 

"It's really worth the effort. We appreciate what the state has done to make this available to us," Dolloff said.

The Maine CDC plans to continue to distribute the kits to organizations statewide that apply. 

"We have of course in Maine expanded the use of these tests beyond schools to say hospital settings and other congregate care settings for the same reason, so that administrators can get a quick sense of what's happening," CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said at Monday's press briefing. 

For school nurses like Webber, this is only the start. She hopes resources are eventually available for routine surveillance testing of both staff and students.

"I think more testing, more readily available results, would be a game-changer for all school nurses in the state," she said. 

Testing requires parental consent. While some schools have already started using the kits, others will start after the holidays.