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Maine speeds up timetable for expanding vaccine eligibility

March 19, 2021 GMT

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine Gov. Janet Mills announced Friday a more aggressive timetable for expanding vaccination eligibility, making them available to people 50 and older this Tuesday and to all 16 and older on April 19.

The new timetable boosts eligibility by about a week to two weeks from the previous timeline. The state is also following the Biden administration directive to move teachers to the front of the line.

Mills said health officials are working around the clock to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible.

“While this is certainly welcome news, Maine people should keep in mind that, even though they may be eligible, it still may take time to get an appointment and get shots into arms,” she said.

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Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, praised the work of organizers of vaccination clinics for making the speedier timetable an option.

“The fine work of vaccination clinics throughout Maine makes it possible to get shots into the arms of more residents sooner than originally projected,” Shah said.

In other pandemic-related news:

SWAB FACTORY

A Maine-based company that’s one of only two manufacturers of a specific type of swab needed for COVID-19 tests is opening a production facility in Tennessee, officials said.

The Puritan Medical Products plant would be the first outside Maine, but the company had no details on where it would be located or when it will open, spokesperson Virginia Templet told the Bangor Daily News.

The company currently has three plants in Maine.

The federal government has provided the company hundreds of millions of dollars since the start of the pandemic as the government rushed to ramp up COVID-19 testing last year.

Puritan, which is based in Guilford, opened two plants in Pittsfield last year. One was helped by $75.5 million in funding from the Department of Defense, while $51.2 million in coronavirus relief funding helped launch another plant.

In January, the federal government awarded it $110 million to purchase production equipment necessary to increase swab production.

Last June, then-President Donald Trump visited the company’s headquarters to praise the workers. The only other company that makes the specific swab is in Italy.

THE NUMBERS

The number of daily infections is continuing to creep upward in Maine.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported almost 240 new confirmed cases on Friday. The number of deaths grew to 728 with another patient succumbing, officials said.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 159 new cases per day on March 3 to 197 new cases per day on March 17.

State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country. For Maine, the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test specimens using data from The COVID Tracking Project.