AUGUSTA — Ahead of school vacation week, the Mills administration announces it expanded eligibility for Project Access COVID Tests (ACT), a partnership between the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and The Rockefeller Foundation, that mails free COVID-19 tests directly to the homes of Maine people, according to a release.

The initial supply of tests, which was originally limited to certain vulnerable communities in Maine, is now available statewide, with every household in Maine eligible to order one set of five at-home rapid tests, regardless of ZIP code of residence.

With February school vacation starting on Monday, Feb. 21, the Mills administration encourages families and school staff to order these free home tests as soon as possible. Testing before returning to school following February vacation week will help prevent the school-based transmission of COVID-19, as students and staff return on Feb. 28. Any Maine resident can visit the Project ACT website, —AccessCovidTests.org — to place their order. The program is limited to one order per residential address during this first phase of the project.

No payment information is required — the tests and shipping are free to residents — and the tests will be delivered through Amazon approximately one week after ordering. The tests require a quick swab inside each nostril, with results available within minutes. Any individual over the age of two can use the tests.

Maine is one of six states partnering with The Rockefeller Foundation, a New York philanthropy, on Project ACT to increase access to testing. So far, 76,680 of 125,000 COVID-19 tests allocated to Maine for the pilot have been mailed directly to the homes of Maine people most in need, improving access to testing in vulnerable Maine communities.

Maine residents can also order free tests through the national initiative at COVIDtests.gov. More information about accessing free, rapid, at-home tests can be found on the COVID-19 testing in Maine website.

“Expanding this project will bring free, at-home tests to families across Maine, helping to limit the spread of COVID-19 and keep Maine communities healthy as students return to school after February break,” said Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Nirav D. Shah. “We encourage parents and school staff to follow the thousands of Maine people who have already taken advantage of this opportunity to visit AccessCOVIDTests.org to order their free tests.”

The release also stated, The Maine Department of Education (MDOE) and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) further revised the standard operating procedure for responding to a positive case of COVID-19 in schools by suspending the recommendations for contact tracing. The previous guidance permitted schools with universal masking policies to suspend contact tracing. Now, regardless of masking policies, schools may suspend contact tracing. Those schools that have the resources to contact trace may continue doing so. These revisions follow other recent changes from the Maine CDC in light of the transmissibility of the Omicron variant.

Additionally, following meetings between the Maine Departments of Education and Health and Human Services and the Maine School Superintendent Association last week, state officials continue to evaluate potential additional changes to policies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools. Maine has largely followed recommendations from the U.S. CDC, including for face coverings, over the last year. However, assuming no forthcoming changes from the U.S. CDC and continuing favorable COVID-19 trends, Maine intends to issue its own school prevention guidance following February vacation, likely in early March.

Since the fall of 2020, all Maine pre-K-12 schools have been providing in-person instruction to students. Throughout the pandemic, the Mills administration has promoted safe, in-person learning, dedicating $329 million in Coronavirus Relief Funding (CRF) to Maine schools to help them educate Maine students. The administration also provided 10,859,586 face coverings, gloves, and other types of personal protective equipment to Maine schools, and has supported COVID-19 testing in schools, including, launching a pooled testing program. The pooled testing guidance has also been streamlined in light of Omicron, and schools have received rapid antigen BinaxNOW tests from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. The administration helped organize vaccine clinics for school staff across Maine and supported more than 500 vaccine clinics for schools and students this past fall.

According to Maine’s Vaccination Dashboard, as of Feb. 15, 2022, 54.5 percent of children ages five to 19 were fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Data from the U.S. CDC shows Maine ties for sixth best in the nation in the percent of five to 17-year-olds fully vaccinated. As of the end of October, 83 percent of school staff were fully vaccinated.

The updated public health guidance for responding to a positive case of COVID-19 in schools can be viewed here.