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‘When in doubt, get a test’: Maine expands rapid COVID-19 testing, guidelines for public-facing workers

The state is now recommending unvaccinated people who work in public-facing industries get rapid tested up to twice weekly
Credit: AP
FILE - This image provided by Abbott Laboratories in August 2020 shows the company's BinaxNOW rapid COVID-19 nasal swab test. (Abbott Laboratories via AP)

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) on Wednesday announced expanded rapid COVID-19 testing across the state to support Mainers who are potentially at risk of getting COVID while on the job.

The expansion comes as the state recently updated its testing guidance for Abbott’s BinaxNOW rapid antigen tests, which now recommends unvaccinated people who work in public-facing industries get tested up to twice a week, even if they don't have symptoms.

Previously, rapid testing was recommended only for people experiencing symptoms, close contacts of confirmed cases, and certain critical infrastructure staff through employer-based surveillance testing. Maine DHHS said nearly 400,000 people in Maine remain at serious risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19, despite the continued vaccination efforts across Maine and the U.S.

“While COVID-19 rates are declining in Maine, testing remains critical to keeping our businesses open and our communities healthy as we get out and about this summer,” Maine DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said in a release. “If you’re concerned about your exposure to the virus through your job, we encourage you to visit any Walgreens location in Maine to monitor your health with a series of free, rapid tests.”

The updated guidance encourages people who work in health care, hospitality, retail, and various other public-facing industries to get tested with a rapid test routinely, “particularly those who are unvaccinated,” Maine DHHS said.

The rapid tests will be available, free of charge, at 61 Walgreens locations across Maine. In addition to the Walgreens locations, there are more than two dozen "swab and send" testing sites across Maine. Rapid tests can be scheduled at Walgreens by appointment for anyone age 3 and older.

“Getting a COVID-19 test is simple, free, and protects you, your family, and your community,” Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav D. Shah said. “If you think you may have been exposed, and especially if you’re not feeling well or you’re unvaccinated, stop by a Walgreens location. When in doubt, get a test.”

Click here for a complete list of rapid testing locations in Maine.