What does this expansion of testing mean?

For several weeks, Maine and other states have not had enough capacity to offer widespread testing. Instead, tests have been prioritized for certain groups, like health care workers and people in congregate living environments where outbreaks have occurred. By more than tripling its capacity, Maine will no longer have to prioritize and anyone with symptoms or who has come in contact with someone who tested positive is likely to get a test.

How do I go about getting a test?

The decision on tests still rests, as it has from the beginning, with primary care doctors. Those who don’t have a primary care doctor can contact urgent care clinics, whose staff will decide whether to test based on each patient’s case. In most cases, people will still need to be exhibiting symptoms or have had close contact with someone who tested positive, although the state does want to start offering sentinel, or random, testing as well, since people can have the virus without showing symptoms.

How long does it take to get results?

The tests are done in clinics or doctors’ offices, many of which have developed drive-through service. Once the swab is completed, it’s sent to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention lab in Augusta for processing. The CDC is able to report out results within 24 to 48 hours of arrival.

How much does the test cost?

Testing for the coronavirus is required to be covered by insurance companies at no cost. However, there may be other costs associated with a doctor’s officer or clinic visit, depending on the case or course of treatment offered and depending on an individual’s insurance.

What do I do if I test positive?

Again, doctors will advise patients on how they should proceed, but those who test positive for COVID-19 should still isolate away from others in their house and avoid coming into contact with others until they are symptom-free.

Why is expanding testing such a big deal?

The more the state can test, the better it can detect where outbreaks have occurred. Already, the state has been doing limited universal testing at long-term care facilities that have had outbreaks. In most cases, with more testing comes more positive cases, but it gives experts a better picture of the spread. It also allows the state to do more comprehensive tracking and tracing.

What is tracking and tracing?

After someone has tested positive for COVID-19, the Maine CDC staff contacts that person to get a sense of how they might have contracted the virus and who they have come into contact with in recent weeks. That information helps inform decisions to contain outbreaks, including finding others who should be tested, which is especially important with the coronavirus because it’s asymptomatic for some.

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