- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 14, 2020

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - Maine officials said Tuesday that health organizations in the state will launch 18 “swab and send” testing sites to help make coronavirus testing more accessible to residents.

The new collection sites are designed to send samples to the Maine State Lab for testing, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement. The sites will use a “drive-through, drive up and mobile specimen collection” model, the department said.

Some of the sites are up and running and others will open within two weeks, officials said.

“Creating Maine-based testing capacity is especially important as national laboratories struggle to handle other states’ surge of COVID-19 cases,” health and human services commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said.

The sites will be available all over the state, with locations planned for Portland, Fort Kent, Bar Harbor and many other cities and towns, officials said.



In other news related to coronavirus in Maine:

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FEW NEW CASES

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said she’s heartened by the slow growth of reported cases of the virus in Maine, but added the state must continue following safety protocols.

Maine officials reported eight new cases of the virus on Tuesday. Mills said she’s “very excited” about the low number, but it’s not time to celebrate or ease off precautions.

“We’ve got to remind ourselves that Maine is not immune. We’re not out of danger,” Mills said.

Maine officials have reported more than 3,500 cases of the virus in the state since the start of the pandemic. They’ve also reported 114 deaths. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with health problems, it can cause severe symptoms like pneumonia.

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PRIMARY DAY

Tuesday was primary election day in Maine. Mills said residents responded to her request to utilize absentee ballots to ease the strain on the polling locations.

More than 200,000 residents took out absentee ballots. That was a record for a Maine primary.

Mills, Lambrew and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention director Nirav Shah all said they voted via absentee.

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SMALL FARMS

A federal program designed to help farmers weather supply chain disruptions amid the coronavirus pandemic needs to do more for small farms, a Maine congresswoman said.

Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree called on U.S. Department of Agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue on Monday to make the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program more inclusive of small farms that rely on local markets and direct sales. The program is intended to help farmers that have suffered economic hardship due to the pandemic.

Pingree, who is an organic farmer, said the USDA should allow for payments on total revenue losses rather than price losses for individual commodities. She said the program’s rules “have meant many of these farms are struggling to access relief or are entirely ineligible for assistance through this program.”

Pingree worked with Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska on the proposal.

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