BOSTON (CBS) – Massachusetts has secured 26 million rapid antigen COVID-19 tests that will be distributed over the next three months, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Tuesday.
The state will prioritize K-12 schools and child care facilities as it distributes the tests by March, Baker said.
“There is no doubt at present that staffing remains a huge challenge for many of these providers. This activation will ease some of the pressure in those places,” the governor told reporters at a State House news conference.
“We plan to ensure we have adequate supplies to keep schools open through the school calendar year as well as for early education and care,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders.
Baker said the tests, which were secured from iHealth, will begin arriving in rolling shipments this week. He said the timing and size of the shipments will depend on international shipping and production.
“Quick tests are practical and effective. They can be completed at home with results in just 15 minutes. They are also accurate to detect when someone is infecting others,” Baker said.
The governor called rapid tests are “a very good alternative” to a PCR test.
The Department of Public Health also issued a guide on when people should get a COVID test, saying they should be tested when they show symptoms or a confirmed close contact with a person with COVID. The board does not recommend people take a PCR test as confirmation that they should complete isolation.
“We do not believe – DPH does not believe – by the way, the CDC and the federal government also do not believe that one needs a PCR test to get back to work, back to school or back to childcare,” Baker said. “We believe that the antigen tests, which are hugely accurate, especially on the reverse side of infection, are a perfectly suitable solution.”
In a move to make rapid tests more accessible, the federal government now allows Americans with private health insurance to request reimbursement for them from Saturday. However, any tests purchased before January 15 will not qualify.
Baker will also testify on COVID-19 testing Tuesday afternoon when he meets with the Joint Committee on COVID-19 and the Emergency Preparedness and Management Hearing.