The state is going to start handing out close to 250,000 federally funded COVID-19 rapid tests to child care facilities this week in an effort to “limit the spread of COVID-19 while minimizing job disruptions for parents and employers,” the Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday.

The increased access will allow parents to test their children for the coronavirus following close contacts rather than keeping them home to quarantine, according to DHHS.

The 250,000 tests going to child care facilities are part of a more than 1 million test shipment that DHHS began receiving last week. The department plans to stockpile the rest of the tests for later use in case of a future surge of the virus, with the focus on helping underserved communities, families with school-aged children and people living in congregate living settings.

DHHS also announced that it will make an additional 300,000 free COVID tests available for order by mail through the department website.

Meanwhile, Maine reported 306 new cases of COVID-19 and an additional 20 deaths Wednesday.

The deaths reported Wednesday likely include people who died weeks ago and were added to the state’s official count after a periodic review of death certificates by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.


The Maine CDC also reported 115 COVID hospitalizations as of Wednesday. Of hospitalized patients, 24 were in critical care and seven were on ventilators.

Those numbers represent a slight decrease from Tuesday, when 116 patients were hospitalized and 25 of them were in intensive care.

COVID transmission has been on a downward trend in Maine since the height of the state’s omicron wave in early 2022. In mid-January the state was recording close to 1,000 new cases per day.

Conditions are improving nationally as well. Monday data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most recent available, show 47,600 new cases. That’s down from a high of over 800,000 cases per day in mid-January.

Over the course of the pandemic Maine has seen 232,953 COVID cases, 2,167 deaths and 4,471 hospitalizations.

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