As people’s tolerance for staying at home appears to be waning, and the subject of stay-at-home orders begins to put the country at odds, we end the week with some welcome good news.

Gov. Mills on Thursday announced a partnership with Idexx, the Westbrook-based world leader in animal diagnostics, that will triple state capacity for COVID-19 testing, a critical component of the state’s plan to allow businesses to reopen safely.

It has been clear for months now that widespread testing nationwide was going to be necessary to reopen businesses and restart activities after social distancing was used to “flatten the curve.”

It’s been frustrating. then. to watch the Trump administration abdicate all responsibility for securing the testing kits and supplies necessary for a robust program. As of Friday morning, it’s been 63 days since President Trump said, “Anybody that wants a test can get a test. That’s what the bottom line is,” and it remains as untrue now as when he said it.

As the president pushed states to end stay-at-home orders and open businesses, an analysis last month by Harvard University researchers found that only 19 states were conducting the bare minimum of tests to safely do so. Maine was not one of them.

But with the Idexx partnership, it appears that the state will have the capacity it needs. Mills said the new tests, which could be available as soon as next week, would allow the state to remove its tiered testing system, which limited tests mostly to health care workers and people in congregate settings.

Now, truly, at least in Maine, everyone who wants a test should be able to get one. (Some of those tests may be taken with swabs made by Guilford-based Puritan Medical Products, recipients of $75.5 million in federal funding last week.)

It will also allow the state to more quickly identify possible hotspots and move to suppress them. As a result, Mills said, she and her Cabinet are discussing adjusting the timelines and protocols in her reopening plan – great news for everyone in the state, whether you think the business restrictions have been too onerous, or you’re more worried about the virus rebounding.

For an example of the usefulness of testing, look no further than President Trump. Along with his staff, he has started to travel and hold events – all because they have access to frequent rapid testing.

Under a more competent and focused federal administration, that would not be a luxury, nor would the good news announced Thursday make Maine such an outlier.

But here we are. President Trump in the early weeks of the outbreak said he didn’t want widespread testing because he feared how the higher case numbers would look. After more than a million confirmed cases and 70,000 American deaths, and with consensus among experts that testing is woefully inadequate, he repeated that view just this week. In between, he failed to use the power of the federal government to produce enough tests and necessary supplies.

Instead, the president left states to fend for themselves, and in many cases compete against each other.

That left Maine in a bad position. The Mills administration, with the help of a local business that has grown into a global behemoth, appears to have made the best of it – just in time.

 


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