The Walgreens pharmacies in Boothbay Harbor and Damariscotta now offer free drive-thru rapid antigen testing to people experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services, on Thursday, Nov. 19, announced 52 additional Walgreens locations that would offer the testing, including the two locations in Lincoln County.
Beginning Friday, Nov. 20, Walgreens opened the new testing sites across Maine to the public, using Abbott’s BinaxNOW rapid antigen point-of-care test. These sites join 10 previously announced locations that opened Nov. 13. An additional three sites in southern Maine will come online with BinaxNOW soon, bringing the total to 65 locations. Appointments at all locations can be made by following the steps at tinyurl.com/yysjla8y.
Through an agreement with DHHS, testing is available through Walgreens at no cost to people in Maine who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. As a result of increased demand for testing in recent days, appointment availability may vary by location.
“The expansion of free rapid antigen testing through Walgreens allows people experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 to quickly rule out this disease,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “The BinaxNOW tests offer one more layer of protection, but continuing to wear a face covering, avoiding large gatherings, and keeping our distance has never been more important.”
Rapid antigen COVID-19 testing is available at Walgreens by appointment to adults and children age 3 and older who meet screening criteria to receive a test. Walgreens patrons self-collect a sample with a nasal swab under the supervision of Walgreens staff and submit the sample through the drive-thru window, with results available in as little as an hour.
People who test positive for COVID-19 through the BinaxNOW rapid test should immediately quarantine and seek a second, standard PCR test to confirm the results.
This testing is available through DHHS’ partnership with Walgreens to distribute approximately 300,000 Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 antigen tests. The BinaxNOW test has been authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for testing symptomatic individuals for COVID-19 within the first seven days of symptoms.
“Walgreens is pleased to further increase access to COVID-19 testing, and to serve as the first retail pharmacy to administer BinaxNOW COVID-19 tests in the country,” said Rick Gates, senior vice president of pharmacy at Walgreens. “The essential role pharmacists and patient care teams play in the health care delivery system has never been more clear. Walgreens has a long history of stepping up to support our customers and communities in times of need, and we’re pleased to be working in collaboration with Maine health officials and stand ready to work with additional states on their efforts to expand access to COVID-19 testing.”
In total, Maine is receiving 400,000 BinaxNOW tests from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at no charge. Maine DHHS is separately allocating 100,000 tests through an application process and has already distributed more than 35,000 of those tests to federally qualified health centers, shelters, schools, and other settings. Since demand may exceed the available supply, DHHS will prioritize facilities that serve high-risk populations, high-risk settings, and other settings where access to testing is otherwise limited.
While the BinaxNOW rapid antigen test is best used for people experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, other types of testing are available in Maine to people who think they need a test, regardless of symptoms and without the need for a referral from a health provider. This testing is available at more than two dozen “swab-and-send” testing locations that offer molecular testing at no charge under separate agreements with DHHS. Results from swab-and-send locations are provided by the Maine Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory within 48 hours of receipt at the lab (the time from sample collection to delivery of the result to the patient may take longer). For more information, visit the Keep Maine Healthy website.
While demand for testing has increased ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, Maine’s testing capacity is among the best in the nation. This capacity is the result of an agreement Gov. Janet Mills reached with Maine-based IDEXX Laboratories five months ago. That agreement, as well as partnerships with Maine health care organizations and exceptional work by the Maine Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory, allowed Maine to become one of the first states in the nation to eliminate its testing prioritization system and issue a standing order allowing anyone in Maine who thinks they need a test to get one.
The Boothbay Harbor Walgreens is at 223 Townsend Ave., while the Damariscotta location is at 365 Main St.