(The Center Square) – Massachusetts will see 26 million COVID-19 rapid antigen tests begin flowing into the state starting this week, Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday.
In a 25-minute news conference, the governor said the state has secured a contract with iHealth Labs to supply the state with the tests over the next three months. The tests, Baker said, will be prioritized to K-12 schools and childcare facilities.
“We expect to receive rolling shipments from this contract beginning this week,” Baker said. “The timing and size of the shipments will vary a little bit depending on international shipping and production variables.”
Baker said the rapid tests were “convenient and efficient,” and can be completed at home with results available in 15 minutes.
“They are also accurate in detecting when someone is about to infect others and that is why our administration is prioritizing securing these tests.”
The 26 million tests, Baker said, will be on top of the 2.1 million rapid tests that were distributed to 102 cities and towns before the holidays. The number is also above the 200,000 test kits that were distributed to educators ahead of their return to classrooms from the winter break.
“We also organized several statewide contracts every city and town can tap into for municipalities to buy rapid tests,” Baker said. “We encourage other municipalities to take advantage of this resource as well.”
Baker also announced a new Department of Public Health advisory pertaining to testing. He said the guidance pertains to when a person should get a COVID-19 test, and there are two key components to the advisory.
If a person is displaying COVID-19 symptoms, Baker said, they should get tested. They should also get tested if they have had a close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.
“DPH doesn’t require all individuals to get a test five days after exposure,” Baker said. “The advisory also makes clear that rapid tests are a good alternative to PCR tests, which are frequently used in drive-thru and on-site testing sites. The results can take 24 to 72 hours, and rapid tests have results in 15 minutes. They are highly accurate in telling when a person is at their most transmissible.”
Baker said the department advises that positive rapid tests do not need to be confirmed with a PCR test.
The governor also announced his is deploying an additional 500 members of the state’s National Guard to work in health care settings to alleviate staffing issues amid a rise in cases in recent weeks.