ELLSWORTH — As the pandemic continues in 2021, the major difference from the 2020 pandemic is that vaccinations against COVID-19 are available for people 12 years of age and above. But testing is still a critical piece of containing and limiting the transmission of the virus, and potential shortages in COVID-19 testing supplies is a concern for the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Executive Director Dr. Nirav Shah said Sept. 7, as the demand is outpacing the supply.
“Access to testing remains a challenge, across the country and across the state,” Shah said.
However, while tests may not be as readily available as in past months, there are still several locations and ways to get tested for COVID-19 in the Ellsworth area.
If you are looking for a home test kit, Walgreens is out of stock at its Ellsworth, Blue Hill and Bucksport locations and through online ordering. Deliveries of the home kits typically arrive by FedEx on Thursday mornings and are quickly sold, according to staff at the Ellsworth location.
Walgreens also offers free drive-through tests, but on the morning of Sept. 14 the Ellsworth location had no appointments, while the Blue Hill location had “few,” according to the online appointment process.
At Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital, testing has moved across the street to the standalone parking lot building and is open from 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. At Northern Light Blue Hill Hospital, the testing building is open from 1 to 4 p.m. on weekdays. Both hospitals require appointments for COVID-19 tests, which are free.
“Increased testing demand and positivity rates led to the reopening of swab-and-go locations,” said Kelley Columber, communications director for the two hospitals, adding that turnaround time for some results may take longer than usual because Northern Light is only being allocated a certain number of PCR tests. “We are still able to test patients using a different type of test, run on different equipment.”
The Northern Light Health “swab-and-go” tests are self-administered and are only available for people with a confirmed or suspected exposure, not for travel or event clearance.
ConvenientMD offers COVID-19 tests, but requests individuals begin with a virtual visit by calling 833-263-0131. Then, a provider will give an estimated test time at the nearest ConvenientMD. Rapid tests are not administered for travel purposes, and antibody testing requires a current order from your personal physician. Results for PCR tests take 24 to 48 hours, while for rapid tests results come through in 30 minutes. Tests cost $175 if not covered by insurance.
Rapid tests like BinaxNow test for the presence of proteins specific to the coronavirus. While results are fast, it is not as accurate as the molecular-based PCR test, which tests genetic material for COVID-19. PCR tests are completed in labs and take 24 to 48 hours. Antibody tests measure the amount of antibodies to coronavirus in the blood, to determine exposure to the virus.
Currently, the seven-day PCR positive rate is 5.76 percent in Maine, and 6.2 percent over the last 14 days in Hancock County.