Cars line up to enter Canada from the Houlton-Woodstock port of entry in Houlton, Maine, on Aug. 9 the first day in 16 months that Americans have been able to enter the country. Credit: Alexander MacDougall / Houlton Pioneer Times

HOULTON, Maine — Residents in Aroostook County who want to cross the border into Canada will soon find it easier to get the necessary COVID-19 testing in order to travel.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services is expanding the availability of polymerase chain reaction or PCR testing, the most commonly available type of COVID-19 test accepted for cross-border travel, at additional Walgreens locations across the state.

Previously, Aroostook residents had only one town — Houlton — where they could get a travel-related PCR test which left those living in the crown of Maine having to travel nearly 100 miles one way to get a test, effectively preventing them from traveling. The DHHS’ expanded locations include Presque Isle and Madawaska, which are two Aroostook County towns located near the Canadian border.

The expansion also includes increased testing availability for child-care services.

“While the way out of the pandemic is vaccination, getting tested for COVID-19 remains critical to limiting the spread of the deadly virus,”DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said. “These expanded testing options, which are being federally funded thanks to the Biden Administration, will help keep children and child care staff safe as well as give Maine people additional choices for testing at pharmacies throughout the state.”

The Presque Isle Walgreens will start PCR testing on Oct. 7, according to DHHS spokesperson Jackie Farwell. The Madawaska Walgreens will begin one week later, on Oct. 14.

Negative PCR test results are accepted by Canadian border officials in order to cross, but also need to be taken within 72 hours prior to arrival, which wait times for test results can sometimes exceed.

A Nucleic Acid Amplification Test or NAAT, which is also accepted by Canada and can deliver results within the same day, is available at Eastport Medical in Calais, right across the border from the Canadian town of St. Stephen.