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Auburn Mall vaccination site closes shop as Maine reports 20 additional COVID deaths on Wednesday

Pigeons take to the air from a sign at the Auburn Mall where a COVID-19 mass vaccination clinic opened on Wednesday, March 17, 2021, in Auburn, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
AP file
Pigeons take to the air from a sign at the Auburn Mall where a COVID-19 mass vaccination clinic opened on Wednesday, March 17, 2021, in Auburn, Maine.

Central Maine Healthcare's COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Auburn Mall is closing this week, one year after it first opened.

The announcement comes as the number of Mainers hospitalized with COVID-19 has fallen by one since yesterday. The state CDC reports that 115 people are receiving inpatient care for the disease, with twenty-four patients in critical care and seven on ventilators.

On Wednesday, CMH staff gave a farewell sendoff to members of Maine's National Guard who filled support roles at the clinic.

Nurse Jennifer Jordan says the Guard members were critical to the success of the vaccination site, which administered more than 65,000 shots.

"I've spent more time with these guys than my family over the last year. And I feel like I'm losing part of them. We did great work and I'm incredibly proud of them," Jordan says. "We have a few Guard members who are going to transition into a health care role that had never really done health care. So, the relationships that we have created, this might be over, but those will last a lifetime."

Jordan says vaccinations will transition to practice settings, but Central Maine Healthcare will be ready to set up clinics in the future if needed.

The site is the longest continuously operating COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Maine. Its last day is Thursday.

Maine's Department of Health and Human Services has announced the purchase of more than a million over-the-counter COVID-19 tests — a quarter of which will go to help child care facilities and parents, with the rest reserved for future needs.

Child care facilities can order the tests from DHHS and distribute them to parents. Parents can then try out a new "test to stay" option that allows children to remain in child care without having to go into quarantine. According to a press release from DHHS, the goal is to minimize job disruption for parents and employers.

DHHS also announced on Wednesday that an additional 300,000 free COVID-19 rapid tests are available to all Mainers through Project ACT. Every Maine household can order one set of five tests through the website accesscovidtests.org.

State health officials are reporting 20 additional deaths of people with COVID, bringing the pandemic death toll to 2,167. The Maine CDC sometimes reports big jumps in deaths after reviewing old records.

Three hundred and six new coronavirus infections are being reported today.