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Regional News

Massachusetts launching major COVID-19 rapid testing initiative

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday, Dec. 13, 2021, said during a press briefing that there are no plans to reinstate the statewide COVID-19 mask mandate.
Alison Kuznitz
/
MassLive / MassLive.com
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday, Dec. 13, 2021, said during a press briefing that there are no plans to reinstate the statewide COVID-19 mask mandate.

As COVID-19 cases across Massachusetts continue to rise, Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday morning that the state would begin this week distributing over 2 million at-home rapid tests to cities and towns, starting with 102 lower-income communities.

Baker said his administration is also working with manufacturers on a "bulk, cheap purchasing deal" that would allow municipalities to purchase tests by January at a fixed, state-negotiated price for distribution to residents.

"This massive distribution effort and the long-term bulk purchasing agreement will make a real difference here in the state," Baker said.

The move comes after states like New Hampshire have taken similar steps to send rapid antigen tests directly to residents, and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu announced last week that she would be sending 20,000 tests into select neighborhoods.

Baker said rapid tests, which can give a result in 15 minutes, will be an important part of stopping the spread of the virus during the holiday season if people use them before gathering with friends and family.

The free test kits that will be distributed this week by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and the National Guard were procured from iHealth Labs and will go to 102 cities and towns with the highest estimated number of families living in poverty.

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders briefed municipal leaders on the proposal on Monday morning, and the administration will be relying on communities to get the tests into the hands of residents.

Polito also noted that moving forward the billions of dollars in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act that went directly to cities and towns can be used to purchase additional tests under the deal being negotiated with manufacturers.