COVID-19 case numbers are surging across Massachusetts, and the CDC now predicts we could see more than a 55% increase in cases nationally by the end of Christmas week.
Handing out free rapid at-home COVID-19 antigen tests is one way Massachusetts is trying to combat the holiday surge.
"I understand the whole family wants to stay together on Christmas, but the more important thing is to keep safe," said Lawrence Mayor Brian DePena.
The cities of Lawrence and Worcester rolled out rapid test distribution Friday. Like many of the other 100 cities and towns across the commonwealth selected to distribute the tests, they will be relying on community organizations, social service agencies and faith-based groups to get them in the hands of people who need them most.
"So to get these tests in the hands of our residents, to get vaccinations in the arms of our residents, it's not an easy endeavor, but when we bring it to the doorstep of our residents, it's a game changer," said Lawrence Inspectional Services Director Mike Armano.
"We're going to be able to provide those same families with great healthy food, but also this tool that can help them celebrate their holidays in safety," said Jean McMurray of the Worcester Food Bank.
It's a move that's welcomed by many people in Massachusetts, hoping the tests can help keep COVID case numbers from continuing to rise.
"I think it's great as long as people can do them correctly at home," said Jessica Riley of Worcester.
"I think that the more access people have to testing, the better, especially when people are going to be in close spaces indoors because it's winter and around the holidays when there's just innately more celebrations and time with family," said Becky Smith of Webster.
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Public health officials are just asking people who receive these at-home tests not to hold onto them, but to use them to try to prevent the spread of COVID.
Worcester Health Director Dr. Michael Hirsch says hosts should screen guests beforehand.
"Ask them to test. They get the answer in 15 minutes. If they're positive, unfortunately, you'll have to pack up a little doggy bag and tell them to go home," Hirsch said.