This Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021, file photo shows a BinaxNOW rapid COVID-19 test made by Abbott Laboratories, in Tacoma, Wash. Credit: Ted S. Warren / AP

Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday it’s expanding access to COVID-19 tests.

Residents can order a free pack of five COVID tests every month through the website

The free tests are available through a partnership between DHHS and the Rockefeller Foundation. Since it launched in January, 489,400 free, at-home COVID-19 test kits have been mailed to Maine households.

Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah says it’s important that residents have tests on hand to help prevent the spread of Covid, especially as hospitalizations are increasing.

“The number of the people in the ICU and on ventilators are a good indication of the severity of COVID and the reach that it has,” says Shah. “The fact that those numbers have crept upwards over the past four weeks, six weeks, eight weeks, is another sign that COVID is not going away.”

As of Monday, 164 people were in the hospital with COVID in Maine, including 32 in critical care and eight on ventilators.

Shah says public health officials are also watching flu cases, and there’s concern of a possible “twindemic” this winter. He’s urging Mainers to get the new COVID booster and the flu vaccine.

This story appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.