Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, November 25, 2020 and The Weekly Packet, November 25, 2020
COVID-19: More warnings, more testing
Free testing now available at Blue Hill Walgreens
by Leslie Landrigan
Editors Note: This is a developing story and we will be posting additional updates in our COVID updates archive.
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to spike, state and local officials are warning against big Thanksgiving gatherings even as testing options expand locally.
The state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced on November 19 that 62 Walgreens, including in Blue Hill, will offer rapid COVID-19 tests to people with symptoms. DHHS said in a news release that the stores will “offer free drive-through rapid COVID-19 antigen testing.” Walgreens, however, offers a caveat. Its website says, “You may not have out-of-pocket costs if you are using insurance or if you are eligible for no-cost testing according to federal or state guidelines.”
Back-ups and delays in testing were acknowledged by Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in a November 20 news briefing.
Shah has also been urging people to limit Thanksgiving events to their immediate households. Rene Colson Hudson, Deer Isle’s COVID-19 coordinator, said in a phone interview that Canada’s virus spread worsened two weeks after its October 12 Thanksgiving. “If anybody is paying any attention they know this is the year not to have a large group of people [at Thanksgiving],” she said. “There are people with you at Thanksgiving who are going to be dead by Christmas.”
School Union 76 Superintendent Chris Elkington sent a memo to parents and staff reminding them that a small Thanksgiving isn’t much compared to war and famine elsewhere in the world. “As I was driving through our communities the last two nights, I saw four large gatherings with double figures of vehicles in the yards,” he wrote on November 22. “Are our kids and families really going to ‘suffer’ if we don’t get together in large gatherings during this year’s holidays?” he wrote.
Elkington also notified parents and staff of state Department of Education changes to the criteria for sending students home. Now, the following symptoms are no longer considered signs of possible COVID-19 infection: stomach pain, swelling of the hands and feet and red eyes or eye discharge. Possible symptoms do include cough, shortness of breath, fever of at least 100.4 degrees, chills, sore throat and loss of taste or smell.
People who experience those symptoms can make an appointment at Walgreens online at Walgreens.com/COVID19Testing.
Customers swab their own noses under a Walgreens staffer’s supervision and get their results in as little as an hour, according to DHHS. People who test positive should quarantine immediately, but also get a second test to make sure the positive wasn’t a false one, according to the department.
People who need a test but aren’t showing symptoms can still go to the Northern Light Blue Hill Hospital “swab and go” testing site.