LEWISTON — Central Maine Healthcare is begging people to stay away if they’re only looking for tests that would show they haven’t been exposed to the coronavirus.

A doctor holds a test kit for viral disease COVID-19 DanielMarin/Shutterstock

“We are facing an onslaught of requests from employers to clear or provide negative COVID-19 screens for employees seeking to return to work after sick leave or vacation,” said Kate Carlisle, spokeswoman for the hospital.

In a note to area chambers of commerce, Carlisle said the hospital can’t offer tests to anyone who doesn’t meet the strict criteria established by the Centers for Disease Control.

She said emergency and medical departments are seeing “an enormous volume of people” seeking tests, many of them because their employers want them “to get a negative screen before they can return to work after sick leave or travel.”

“Unfortunately,” Carlisle said, “we are only able to test patients who meet specific CDC criteria. We cannot test solely for occupational health purposes.”

In addition, “the state of Maine laboratory that processes our tests is not able to provide speedy turnaround of results,” she said.

Carlisle said statements by some government leaders “have created a public perception that COVID-19 testing is widely available with rapid results,” but the reality is that tests are uncommon and getting the results takes time.

“We are truly committed to the health and safety of our communities and as such, we must follow the protocols that allow us to effectively diminish the spread of this disease,” Carlisle said.

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