Gov. Charlie Baker defended his administration's COVID-19 testing efforts as long lines continue to stretch at testing sites while cases surge in Massachusetts.
Taking questions from reporters after riding the new Green Line Extension train from Lechmere Station to Union Square and back again, Baker pointed to the fact that Massachusetts is the state conducting the second-most tests per capita nationwide.
"I'd love to have more, but I start with the proposition that we have more than just about anybody else in the country," Baker said.
He hadn't held a COVID-19 press conference since Dec. 21, when he announced new guidelines, including a face covering advisory and deploying the National Guard to help with the hospital staffing shortage.
Massachusetts' COVID metrics, tracked on the Department of Public Health's interactive coronavirus dashboard, dashboard, have been spiking to heights not seen since last winter's surge, thought to be driven in part by the omicron variant.
The number of new COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts hit a single-day high once again on Wednesday, when health officials reported another 15,163 confirmed cases and 45 new deaths. (The state doesn't collect data from rapid, at-home COVID tests.)
Baker pointed out that Massachusetts has been working to make more rapid tests available to residents, including by purchasing test kits directly from manufacturers to be sold on to cities and towns, and "they should help take some of the pressure off those testing sites."
He also said his administration would push to expand the state's testing infrastructure, but that staffing issues have made that hard.
"We have more testing infrastructure than just about anybody else, but people are going to have to be patient," he said.
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The state is also distributing 200,000 tests to schools so that each school teacher and staff member can see if they have COVID before returning from the holiday break. Asked about criticism of the plan from a Massachusetts teachers union, Baker defended it as something he's heard communities appreciate.
He also insisted that, even amid the current surge, kids shouldn't be taken out of schools.
"The damage that was done to kids should never be repeated, and we have the tools and capabilities to keep people safe," Baker said.