Mass. to expand free virus tests

Associated Press
Published: 7/27/2020 6:48:47 PM

BOSTON — Massachusetts is expanding its free coronavirus testing program to eight additional communities where positive test rates are above the statewide average at the same time the number of tests being conducted is dropping, Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday.

The testing initiative, which is also open for asympomatic people who make an appointment, is expanding to Agawam, Brockton, Methuen, Randolph, Revere, Springfield, Taunton and Worcester, the Republican governor said during a news conference.

“In addition to dozens of other testing sites in every county, we’re increasing our testing footprint to better understand exactly where the virus exists, who has it, and how we can follow up through our tracing program and other initiatives,” he said.

The Stop The Spread program was previously rolled out earlier this month in Chelsea, Everett, Fall River, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, Marlborough and New Bedford. So far, about 19,000 total tests have been conducted at the first eight sites, he said.

The overall positive test rate in the state has inched up recently from about 1.7% to about 2%, he said, a reminder that the virus is not taking the summer off, he said.

The state is also closely looking at small clusters, including a private party in Chatham and an employee at Baystate Healthcare, who the governor said traveled to an out-of-state hot spot and was “lax” about wearing a mask. Other employees and patients have since tested positive, he said.

“We can also assume there’s simply a lot more mobility out there, some of that as a result of the economic activity associated with opening up some of our commonwealth’s businesses and employers, but also some of it is just people being out and about — it’s warm out, and people generally speaking are in more contact with people now than they were in the months of April, May, and even June,” Baker said.

By the numbers

The state Department of Public Health reported 182 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Monday and seven additional deaths.

There have now been more than 108,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 8,300 fatalities attributed to the disease. The average age of the patients who have died is 82.

The number of people in the hospital with the virus has dropped to 350 as of Sunday, down from 364 the previous day. Of those patients, 57 are in intensive care.

Graduation case

A parent who attended an outdoor high school graduation in Massachusetts over the weekend tested positive for the coronavirus after falling ill at the event, officials said.

The woman was symptomatic prior to the Quincy High School graduation ceremony on Saturday morning, city officials tell The Patriot Ledger.

School officials and the city health department said the risk of transmission is low because attendees wore masks and socially distanced.

Health department officials said because the event required preregistration, they were able to contact people who were in the immediate vicinity of the woman. They are asking anyone who helped during the medical emergency to reach out to the Quincy Health Department.

Crowded cruise

A photo of what appeared to be a crowded Boston Harbor cruise ship over the weekend drew some outrage on social media, but the company that operates the vessel said all proper guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus were followed.

The image showed the Provincetown II, a three-deck vessel run by the Bay State Cruise Co., preparing to depart for a 2 1/2-hour cruise Saturday night. Most guests were on the open-air top deck.

The vessel sailed at 33% capacity, within the company’s COVID-19 operating limits of 44% capacity, Michael Glasfield, a manager with the company, said in an email to WBTS-TV. That allowed for 28 square feet (2.6 square meters) per passenger, enough room for 6 feet (2 meters) of social distancing, he said.

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