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MaineHealth awarded nearly $1M to study COVID-19 testing among at-risk populations

The National Institutes of Health awarded MaineHealth $940,140 to study ways to make regular COVID-19 testing easier for Maine's at-risk populations.

PORTLAND, Maine — Money from the American Rescue Plan will help make it easier for people in underserved communities to get tested for COVID-19.

Senator Angus King announced Monday, the National Institutes of Health awarded MaineHealth $940,140 to study ways to make regular COVID-19 testing easier for Maine's immigrant, low-income and homeless populations.

"It's really important as part of our pandemic layered control approach right now, because we need, in addition to really optimizing vaccination, we need for people to have access to rapid testing," said Dr. Kathleen Fairfield, Maine Medical Center.

The research team will follow 150-people from those populations in the Portland area for one year, to see if their attitudes toward regular COVID-19 testing change.

Organizations like Preble Street and Greater Portland Health will be participating. The plan is to also expand walk-up COVID-19 testing sites in November.

"[We] Certainly think that it is much needed, particularly in areas of increasing the outreach piece of connecting to members in the community," said Elizabeth Jackson, chief operating officer, Greater Portland Health.

"Testing for you and me might be generally easy. We go to our primary care doctor, and we can set up a test, or you go to Walgreens and you drive through, but you know, having more testing readily available for people on the street and experiencing homelessness is just going to be so much better," Andrew Bove, vice president social work, Preble Street.

The study will begin immediately.