- Executive Office of Health and Human Services
- Office of Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito
- Governor's Press Office
Media Contact for Baker-Polito Administration’s COVID-19 Command Center Files Plan With Federal Government To Expand Its Comprehensive Strategy For COVID-19 Testing And Tracing
Ann Scales, Director of Media Relations
BOSTON — The Baker-Polito Administration’s COVID-19 Command Center filed its federal testing plan, issued guidance to permit outdoor visitation at long term care facilities and will continue to expand its daily data reporting.
COVID-19 Testing Update
The Baker-Polito Administration filed its required federal plan on May 30, 2020 to expand COVID-19 testing under the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act of 2020. Massachusetts has received $374 million in federal funding from the Act.
Massachusetts is among the states hardest hit by COVID-19, with the 3rd highest number of positive COVID-19 cases per capita in the nation. The Administration continues to prioritize expanding access to testing and currently has the 4th highest number of tests completed in the country. A key focus of that strategy has been to ensure access to testing in skilled nursing facilities, rest homes, and assisted living residences and other 24/7 staffed congregate care settings.
This funding will help the Commonwealth implement a comprehensive testing strategy that includes:
- Increasing lab testing capacity to 45,000 by the end of July;
- Reducing the positive test rate to less than 5 percent;
- Ensuring on-demand access to testing for all symptomatic individuals and their close contacts;
- Increasing access to testing for vulnerable and high-risk populations;
- Building a testing infrastructure to support a potential second surge;
- Modernizing public technology infrastructure to provide real-time data on cases and testing; and
- Operating a best-in-class contact tracing program.
In addition to expanding testing sites, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health this month will install the Roche Diagnostics cobas® 6800 platform in the State Public Health Lab. The State Lab expects to receive sufficient supplies and reagents to enable 1,300 tests/day. The State Lab will also conduct randomly sampled testing in tandem with the Harvard School of Public Health, to include at least 5,000 households linked to the US Census’ American Community Survey sample to provide more complete demographic, risk, exposure, and health care data to complement these test results.
The State Lab will also expand the existing ARCHITECT platform with Abbott Laboratories to conduct antibody testing in conjunction with planned viral testing. This machine will enable up to 1,600 antibody tests per day.
To date, Massachusetts has tested more than 595,000 people for COVID-19. On average, 10,000 individuals are tested each day, comprising 4.4% of the state’s population each month. The state currently has capacity at 45 labs to perform up to 30,000 COVID-19 tests per day, and its nursing home testing strategies have been replicated by states across the country.
Guidance Issued for Long-Term Care Outdoor Visitations
Beginning June 3, 2020, the Baker-Polito Administration is easing family visitation restrictions at nursing homes, rest homes and assisted living facilities to allow for scheduled outdoor visits. In addition, long-term care facilities should continue to use alternative electronic methods for communication between residents and visitors, such as Skype, FaceTime, etc.
Guidance was issued today for nursing homes, rest homes and assisted living facilities detailing how to safely allow scheduled visits with residents to occur. These measures include:
- A resident who is suspected or confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 cannot be visited. A resident who has recovered from COVID-19 may be visited.
- Visitors must be screened for fever or respiratory symptoms. Any individuals with symptoms of COVID-19 infection will not be permitted to visit with a resident.
- A long-term care facility staff member trained in patient safety and infection control measures must always remain with the resident during the visit.
- Visits must be limited to no more than two individuals. A visitor must always remain at least 6 feet from the resident and attending staff member(s) during the visit.
- Staff and residents must wear a surgical face mask and visitors must wear a face covering or mask for the duration of the visit.
Additional guidance will be issued in the coming days for the Holyoke and Chelsea Soldiers’ homes and other 24/7 congregate care facilities.
New Metrics Added to Daily Dashboard
In its efforts to continue to offer transparent reporting on COVID-19, Massachusetts is adding new data elements to its daily dashboard. Beginning this afternoon, the Commonwealth will include data on both probable cases and deaths in addition to reports on confirmed cases and deaths.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Department of Public Health has been reporting on the number of confirmed cases and deaths that had a positive COVID-19 molecular, or viral, test result. Probable cases are individuals who have not been tested by the standard molecular test. Probable cases have had a positive antibody test and either had COVID symptoms or were likely exposed to a positive case. Probable cases also include individuals whose death certificate listed COVID-19 as a cause of death but who were not tested. The probable cases and deaths reported today go back to March 1, 2020.
Also, today, in addition to its regular reporting on viral testing results, the dashboard will now include data on the total number daily and cumulative COVID-19 antibody tests performed. Viral testing, which is performed by nasal swab, is conducted to determine if an individual is currently infected with COVID-19. Antibody tests are blood tests used to determine if a person had COVID-19 in the past and now has antibodies against the virus.
Because there are now sufficient antibody test results to show meaningful trends, the data are now being used to report on probable cases. Including probable cases will increase understanding about the impact of COVID-19 here in Massachusetts.