A state-sponsored “swab-and-send” COVID-19 testing site opened at LincolnHealth’s Miles Campus in Damariscotta on Wednesday, Aug. 26.
The office of Gov. Janet Mills announced five new swab-and-send testing sites in a press release Thursday, Aug. 20, bringing the statewide total to 27. The press release says the new sites will allow approximately 90% of Maine residents to obtain a COVID-19 test within 30 minutes of their home.
The site offers drive-up testing by appointment outside the hospital’s Respiratory Care Clinic, which is behind the emergency department, from 8 a.m. to noon Wednesday and Thursday. To make an appointment, call the clinic at 563-4353.
Tests are free for anyone who believes they have COVID-19 or have been exposed to the coronavirus that causes the highly contagious respiratory illness.
Samples will be sent to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory. The turnaround time for results will be about five days, according to John Martins, spokesperson for LincolnHealth.
Martins said by phone that the new testing site will likely fill a gap in testing for people coming to Maine from out of state and Mainers returning from out of state who do not have an existing relationship with LincolnHealth, even if they do not have symptoms of COVID-19.
However, Martins said that for local residents, especially those who have a relationship with LincolnHealth, it would be beneficial to check with their doctor first and attempt to get a test through LincolnHealth’s current testing apparatus. Martins said the turnaround time for results is quicker this way, at only one day.
Martins said the hospital is preparing its Webster Van Winkle building, on the hill above Chase Point, to become the new site for all COVID-19 testing.
Martins said by email that the Respiratory Care Clinic has had a lot of calls in the past week but only a “handful” of swab-and-send tests have been scheduled so far.
LincolnHealth’s current in-house testing policy — aside from that of the swab-and-send site — says that if someone thinks their symptoms warrant a visit to the urgent care center on the St. Andrews Campus in Boothbay Harbor or the emergency department at the Miles Campus in Damariscotta, they can receive a test there after first calling ahead and registering as a patient.
For people with an established relationship with MaineHealth or LincolnHealth, testing may be available without symptoms if the individual has had known exposure or is at elevated risk of exposure.
LincolnHealth defines known exposure as being within 6 feet of someone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19 for at least 30 minutes.
Those at an elevated risk of exposure include: people returning from states that have a higher COVID-19 prevalence than Maine; anyone who has attended a large gathering; employees of businesses who have direct, daily contact with members of the public; essential health care workers and first responders; and residents and staff of group living facilities, such as nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
Martins said arrangements for testing can be made by calling one of LincolnHealth’s primary care offices. If a test is deemed necessary, the caller will be referred to a testing location.
No new COVID-19 cases in Lincoln County for 17 days
The Maine CDC has not reported any new cases of COVID-19 among Lincoln County residents for 17 days.
As of Monday, Aug. 24, the Maine CDC has reported 35 cases of the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus in Lincoln County since the outbreak began in mid-March — two of which remain active. There have been 30 confirmed cases and five probable cases. The newest case was reported Aug. 7.
The probable category includes people who are close contacts of someone with a confirmed case and become symptomatic or someone who has had a confirmed antibody test and either had close contact with someone with a confirmed case or became symptomatic.
The case rate for Lincoln County is 10.2 per 10,000 people. Three residents have been hospitalized at some point in their illness, one of whom has died.
There have been 32 recoveries, leaving the two active cases, a number calculated by subtracting recoveries and deaths from the confirmed and probable case total.
Community transmission of the virus has not been detected in Lincoln County, according to the Maine CDC.
According to Martins, of LincolnHealth, from Aug. 17-23, 249 COVID-19 tests were performed through the hospital, one of which was positive, for a positivity rate of 0.4%.
Of the 249 tests performed in the past week, 79 were clinical, for people exhibiting symptoms; 41 were of patients without symptoms at either admission or discharge from the hospital; and 128 were preoperative or of people with known exposure to COVID-19 who did not exhibit symptoms.
In total, since July 13, LincolnHealth has performed 1,571 COVID-19 diagnostic tests, with eight positive results, for a positivity rate of 0.5%.
The seven-day average positivity rate statewide as of Aug. 24 was 0.76%.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nationwide positivity rate for “week 33,” ending Aug. 15, was 6.3%.
The hospital also conducted one serology, or antibody, test, which was negative. These tests determine if someone has been infected with the coronavirus by detecting antibodies the body deploys to fight the infection. The U.S. CDC states on its website that it is unknown whether antibodies confer immunity from the virus.
“If antibodies do provide immunity, we don’t know how much antibody is protective or how long protection might last. CDC scientists are currently conducting studies to answer these questions,” the site says.
Martins also said that LincolnHealth is well supplied with personal protective equipment and testing supplies and there have been no new changes to hospital policy in the past week.
State COVID-19 numbers
The Maine CDC has reported 4,368 COVID-19 cases in Maine as of Monday, Aug. 24, an increase of 155 from the week before. Of those cases, 449 are probable.
There have been 410 hospitalizations and 3,784 people have recovered. There have been 131 deaths so far from COVID-19 in Maine. The statewide case rate is 32.6 per 10,000 people.
The number of active cases, 453, is an increase of 16 from one week before.
The Maine CDC also lists the results of antibody tests. Since May 20, 472 people have tested positive for antibodies and there have been 8,926 negative results. Thirteen tests have been indeterminate.