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New law to eliminate financial COVID-19 barriers in Maine

March 25, 2021 GMT

ORONO, Maine (AP) — A bill that aims to eliminate barriers to COVID-19 screening, testing and immunization is now law in Maine, officials said Thursday.

The legislation, which became law without the governor’s signature on Wednesday, requires state-regulated insurers to cover COVID-19 screening, testing and immunization at no cost to patients.

House Speaker Ryan Fecteau said the law “makes sure cost is not a barrier to any Mainer in our fight against COVID-19.”

“As more Mainers become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine each day, lawmakers must ensure nothing prevents any Mainer who wants to get vaccinated from getting their shot,” added Senate President Troy Jackson.

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The goal is to ensure Mainers can get tested and vaccinated at no cost. If an uninsured person gets tested at a clinic with no state contract, then the person is provided with a MaineCare form to be reimbursed.

The law takes effect immediately.

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In other pandemic news in Maine:

THE NUMBERS

The number of daily cases of the coronavirus has been rising in Maine, but the number of daily deaths has fallen.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 167.14 on March 9 to 197.29 on March 23. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Maine did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 3.17 on March 9 to 0.86 on March 23.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that it has reported 49,190 cases of the virus since the start of the pandemic. It has also reported 731 deaths.

Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said the declining average of daily deaths is evidence that COVID-19 vaccines is doing its work. He said it’s also evidence of the wisdom of the state’s decision to protect vulnerable and older residents first.

“The vaccine is what’s going on there,” Shah said. “What’s doing the lion’s share of work, particularly in the decline of deaths, is vaccination.”

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VACCINE ART

Students at University of Maine are making art to encourage equal distribution of coronavirus vaccines.

The students are intermedia students working on a campaign led by Intermedia MFA Program Director Susan Smith. The university said about 20 students are developing “various media that reinforce the hardships of the pandemic and encourage spectators to help bring about its end through inoculation.”

The university said the campaign is called “Creativity vs. COVID.” The student artists are using their art to encourage use of the vaccines as well as to call for equitable distribution of doses, the school said.

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The university said some of the artists will use projectors to display their work on the front of Fogler Library and New Balance Field House on the night of April 2. Other students are working on a postcard campaign entitled “The Outbreak Diaries.”

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VACCINE INCENTIVES

Bangor Savings Bank is offering $500 to employees who get a COVID-19 vaccine.

The bank said the incentive is a way to protect employees and customers, WMTW-TV reported. It’s part of the company’s wellness program, the station reported.

The bank’s senior vice president, Ryan Albert, said the bank isn’t requiring employees to get the vaccine and will respect any employee’s decision to decline it.

Shah said more than 600,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered throughout the state. That means about 29% of people in Maine have received at least a first dose.