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Chamber advocates for access to COVID-19 testing


LEWISTON – More than 60 businesses have signed the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s position statement of Access to Testing and Timely Results, joining the Chamber’s over 700 members and the full Lewiston Auburn Legislative Delegation.

The Chamber is advocating for access to COVID-19 testing and timely results. Requests from area businesses came for the Chamber to take a formal position; and were reviewed by their Business Advocacy Committee and board. This position statement addresses an issue key to the area’s workforce and economy- when employees are isolated while waiting for test results for upwards of 8 days, it limits business operations and holds back the economy.

“Our members put the safety of their staff and customers first, and recognize the significant steps the State of Maine has taken to ensure the public health response keeps people safe. The leadership of Maine CDC, Maine DECD, and Maine DHHS, along with the sacrifice of business owners and Maine residents have kept our positive case counts low, our test positivity rate low, and our people safe”, says Shanna Cox, President and CEO of the Chamber. “Businesses are greatly concerned with access to testing and timely results as they prepare for the cold and flu season.”

With cold and flu symptoms overlapping with Covid-19 symptoms, symptomatic employees must remain home. Timely negative test results can help employees return to work sooner, and keep operations running smoothly. The LA Metro Chamber identifies three actions the State must continue to prioritize to ensure employers can manage their workforce for safety and keep their doors open, which are vital to the LA region, state economy, and quality of life.

“Our employees and business have been severely impacted by COVID-19 and inconsistencies with testing. Throughout this pandemic, we have had 3 of our 32 employees test positive for COVID-19, which resulted in 21 employees being quarantined so far. By diligently following the CDC guidelines our employee wellness screening has resulted in the Credit Union encouraging employees with symptoms to stay home and seek testing. Some employees get their results back in less than 24 hours while others wait for 7 days, even when they go to the same testing site,” said  Community Credit Union President and CEO Jen Hogan.

“This is very stressful for the employee affected as well as for our entire team. Delays in test results have caused our staff to feel overwhelmed with worry, anticipating their results and how they may have potentially exposed their families, friends, coworkers and anyone they may have interacted with,” Hogan said. “All of these challenges have resulted in several short-term staffing shortages leading to the temporary closure of locations or limiting of services to our members. This has been really hard for our organization and my heart goes out to all of my employees and other businesses that are doing their best to safely navigate this pandemic.”

Cox said the Chamber and businesses ask that the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, with Governor Mills’ Administration, Continues to expand access to free testing by increasing the reimbursement rate for administration of Swab and Send sites, allowing for expanded hours and locations for test sites that administer free tests and utilize the State lab for processing.

The Chamber also wants the state to improve the consistency and shorten the length of time for accurate results by continuing to expand capacity at State laboratories, investing in proven and emerging testing methods and supplies that provide results in 48 hours or less.

And the Chamber asks that the state continues to prioritize the testing access and timely results for employers and their workforce by seeking innovative solutions with Maine manufacturers, biotech companies, healthcare systems, and employers.

“The Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and our members appreciate the efforts to date, and stand ready as partners to seek workable solutions that ensure employers can balance safety with financial sustainability,” Cox said.

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