In this June 30, 2021, file photo, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Nirav Shah speaks at his final, regular pandemic press briefing in Augusta. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

PORTLAND, Maine — Maine’s rural areas need better access to COVID-19 testing, the head of the state’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The percent positivity rate in some of Maine’s rural counties is much higher than it is in more densely populated areas such as Cumberland County. Federal data show the percent positivity rate in Cumberland is about 2 percent while in rural Somerset County it’s more than 9 percent.

Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Nirav Shah said Thursday that’s a product of a lack of testing. He said the state is working to get more tests to rural corners of the state. Maine has the lowest population density in New England.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services also said Thursday that Maine child care facilities can now access pooled testing for children and staff through a federal program that provides the testing for free to some community organizations and schools. The agency said Walgreens is also expanding testing options at almost all of its Maine locations.

“Not enough testing is happening in those parts of the state. We’re focusing on making community level testing more accessible,” Shah said.