- The Maine Wire - https://www.themainewire.com -

Maine leaning on federal government to increase Mainers’ access to rapid COVID-19 tests

The Mills administration has announced no plans to provide at-home COVID-19 rapid tests for Maine residents, but at-home tests may be available to Maine residents as a result of expanded federal government production of at-home rapid tests.

At a December 8 press conference, Gov. Janet Mills spoke critically of the state’s ability to provide free, at-home COVID-19 testing to residents. 

“Home delivery? It’s not like delivering a pizza,” Mills said in response to a reporter’s question about whether the state would consider at-home delivery of COVID-19 tests.

Lindsay Crete, Mills’ press secretary, later told the Portland Press Herald that Mills’ administration would “absolutely” be interested in participating in a federal program to deliver free, at-home COVID-19 tests. 

Crete referenced a federal pilot program, administered by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in which New Hampshire participated. The Say Yes! Covid Test currently offers free, at-home rapid COVID-19 tests to eligible residents in counties in New Hampshire and Washington.

The program was announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the NIH in March 2021. In the past, online ordering of through-the-mail rapid tests was available in Louisville, Kentucky; Indianapolis, Indiana; Fulton County, Georgia; O’ahu, Hawaii; Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, Michigan; Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Pitt County, North Carolina.

In New Hampshire, the 800,000 available tests, intended to be delivered over the course of a month, were all used within 24 hours. Gov. Chris Sununu suggested New Hampshire may look at expanding the program using state funds.

On December 2, President Joe Biden announced measures that were part of his administration’s winter plan to combat COVID-19 cases and the Omicron and Delta variants. Included in those were steps to increase the availability of at-home testing, including making at-home tests reimbursable for individuals with private insurance and quadrupling the number of available tests from September’s levels.

On December 21, Biden announced plans to use the Defense Production Act to increase production of rapid tests and deliver 500 million to Americans’ homes in January. 

But other states and some cities have made rapid, at-home tests available to their residents without federal support. Massachusetts, New Jersey, Colorado, and New York City are offering residents at-home tests.

Crete did not respond to questions about whether the Mills administration had discussed Maine’s future participation in the NIH’s at-home testing program with the Biden administration.