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Mills Praises Maine's Low COVID-19 Tallies As State Announces New 'Swab And Send' Testing Sites

Nick Woodward
Maine Public
Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah speaks at a news conference April 7, 2020, in Augusta, Maine.

Maine health officials are reporting eight new cases of COVID-19 since Monday, bringing the total diagnosed in the state since the pandemic's onset to 3,566.  The death tally remains at 114.That's according to new figures the Maine Center for Disease Control posted on its website Tuesday.  A total of 3,062 people infected with the virus have recovered, 54 more than Monday. That leaves a total of 390 active cases in Maine.

Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said 17 people are currently hospitalized, seven of them in the ICU. Three people are on ventilators.

At a press briefing Tuesday, Maine Gov. Janet Mills called the day's low tallies "very exciting," and attributed it to the ongoing vigilance of Mainers themselves. "Maine people have done an extraordinary job," she said. But she urged people to continue to be vigilant.

"This is a deadly virus, it's still here lurking in our communities across the state, and when it takes hold, it can spread dangerously fast," she said.

Shah, meanwhile, announced a new outbreak of the disease at the Cumberland County Jail in Portland. He said three cases were diagnosed among inmates, all of whom he said have now been tested for the disease. Universal testing is also underway among staff at the jail. Results of both rounds of testing are expected to be availalbe "very soon," Shah said.

Universal testing is also underway among clients and staff at Orono Commons, a nursing home where eight cases were previously identified. The state is also keeping track of an outbreak announced last week at the Pratt & Whitney plant in North Berwick, where Shah said five cases remain.

Maine DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew announced at the briefing that the state is partnering with seven health care organizations in the state to launch 18 COVID-19 "swab and send" test collection sites, extending from Fort Kent to Blue Hill to South Portland. "Creating Maine-based testing capacity is important as national laboratories struggle to handle other state's surge of COVID-19 case,” Lambrew said.

Some will offer drive-through testing at existing hospitals and health care centers. Others will be deployed in mobile health vehicles. Those at the sites will administer the test and send the swabs to the state lab, where results will be processed in 24 to 48 hours.

Turn-around time at private labs can take a week or more.

"That's why we feel some urgency to get these swab and send sites up and going,” Lambrew says. “Because unlike some other sites, when you go to one of the sites we're setting up, they stay in Maine. They go from the site in Maine to the Maine state lab, to the individual. They don't leave the state."

Testing will be free for those considered high-risk under a standing state order, which includes frontline health and hospitality workers, people of color, and visitors from other states with a higher prevalence of COVID-19 than Maine.

Some of the sites are already in operation and others will be online in the next few weeks, Lambrew said.

Information on the testing sites is available here.

Patty Wight contributed to this report.

Updated 5:31 p.m. ET, July 14, 2020.