Massachusetts municipalities and food banks will collectively receive 5 million at-home COVID-19 rapid tests to distribute to Bay Staters this fall, the Baker administration announced Wednesday.
State government will steer 3.5 million tests to cities and towns, who will then be able to make the tests available to residents, and food banks will also gain access to 1.5 million tests intended for the vulnerable populations they serve. Cities and towns can also seek personal protective equipment such as KN95 and surgical masks from the state, Baker administration officials said.
Municipalities can request PPE and tests through Sept. 16, and the Baker administration expects shipments to arrive "before mid-October," officials said. The size of allocations will be based on local populations.
While public life has largely rebounded from the pandemic with most Massachusetts residents vaccinated against the virus, COVID-19 impacts continue to linger. The Department of Public Health last week reported an average of 862 newly confirmed cases per day and a seven-day average of 593 Bay Staters hospitalized for the virus.
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In each of the past two years, cases and hospitalizations began to rise significantly in the fall before peaking in early winter.
"Testing is one critical tool for managing COVID-19, rather than COVID managing us, and we remain committed to ensuring that all Massachusetts residents have access to free tests," Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said in a statement. "Taking an at-home test is part of the steps that individuals can take -- including staying up to date on vaccines, staying home when sick, and wearing masks as needed -- to protect themselves and reduce the spread of COVID-19."