|July 1, 2020
Testing Increases; DHHS Standing Order; MMA Continues to Seek State Assistance
To safely reopen the economy, Maine has been a leader in expanding its capacity to produce test results at levels recommended by leading national public health experts. As Maine continues to embark on its ambitious plan for widespread testing we hope to work closer with DHHS to maximize the benefits while keeping long-term public health in mind. The strategy to identify as many people as possible, including asymptomatic people that may have the virus, and then using the results to isolate positive cases and quarantine contacts of those cases to try to slow the spread of the virus is certainly sound for us to keep numbers down and contain any current or future spread. Widespread testing, however, requires the availability of testing resources at the practice level - both the test kits themselves (swabs and viral transport media) and personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers, who are required to wear these in order to take the sample from patients.
The State is also attempting to make testing available to more people by providing a standing order allowing individuals at elevated risk to get tested without an order from a health care provider. It is important to note the intent of the standing order as outlined this week by DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew is for broader testing of people within the three categories outlined in the order. First, those with symptoms or those who may have been exposed to someone with ‘laboratory confirmed” COVID-19. Second, members of groups at elevated risk “as determined by DHHS” and outlined in the order. Third, “populations identified by the Department for COVID-19 testing as part of a population based sentinel testing program.” It’s important to note the Commissioner stated that she, “ would discourage people who are simply curious as the test will not tell you much if you’re not in one of those categories.” Numerous public health experts warn a potentially false negative result can be more consequential than the benefit of positive tests, because infected persons — who might be asymptomatic — may not be isolated and can infect others. In addition, widespread testing requires systems and personnel to manage reporting the results, whether positive or negative which may adversely affect health care capacity. Also, as of June 1, assessment of clinical sensitivity in asymptomatic people had not been reported for any commercial test.
While many health care facilities across the state are conducting on-site testing, the MMA continues to seek personal protective equipment and testing materials for smaller primary care physician practices and specialty physicians. To date, those practices have received no assistance from the State related to PPE or testing supplies. Widespread testing and contact tracing requires ample supplies of PPE and testing materials at the practice level. Smaller independent physician practices have been left out of the current supply chain in their attempt to keep their patients, staff and communities moving toward a safer and healthier future.
There are, however, resources to find testing locations throughout Maine. One is Get Tested COVID-19 which uses zip code information to find your nearest location. We are working hard to find a supply chain and distribution solution for many practices. In the meantime, it is important to the public health mission of the State that patients who need testing have access to care and aren’t turned away by their physician because of a lack of testing supplies.
Please reach out to Director of Communications and Government Affairs, Dan Morin at (207) 838-8613 call/text or at email@example.com with any questions or requests for more information.Next Article >
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