On Tuesday, the Baker-Polito Administration announced an order that was placed with iHealth to supply the state with 26 million rapid antigen tests over the next three months. The tests will be prioritized to support K-12 schools and childcare settings. The agreement allows for shipments of tests to arrive on a rolling basis in the Commonwealth, but the Administration warns that the timing and shipment amounts will vary depending on international shipping and production variables.
The Administration also released a public health advisory this week to advise all residents on when to seek tests for COVID-19. The advisory advises all residents to seek COVID-19 tests when exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms or five days following a known close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 pursuant to state Department of Public Health (DPH) quarantine and isolation protocols, which were updated as of December 29, 2021, in accordance with the new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance.
The new isolation protocols do not require a COVID-19 test to exit isolation after having COVID-19. This general rule also applies to childcare and K-12.
The new quarantine protocols recommend, but do not require, that all exposed individuals get a test five days after exposure. Exposed individuals do not need to quarantine in the following circumstances:
- If fully vaccinated and not yet eligible to receive a booster or
- If fully vaccinated and have received their booster or
- If they had COVID-19 and it is less than 90 days since they were diagnosed
DPH advises that a positive COVID-19 rapid antigen does not need to be confirmed with a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.
DPH recommends individuals that have COVID-19 symptoms and test negative with a rapid antigen test should isolate and either repeat an antigen test or get a PCR test in 24-48 hours if they continue to exhibit symptoms. Additionally, DPH does not advise employers or schools and child care organizations to require a test as a condition of returning to work or school.
Vaccination and getting a booster remain the best possible protection against COVID-19. There are almost 1,000 locations in the Commonwealth for residents to receive a COVID-19 vaccine or booster. Visit VaxFinder.mass.gov to book an appointment.
Massachusetts National Guard
On Tuesday, Governor Charlie Baker activated 500 additional members of the Massachusetts National Guard to support the state’s health care system. This order expands the National Guard activation of 500 members announced on December 21, 2021, to support non-clinical functions in the Commonwealth’s hospitals. Prioritized uses for the newly activated 500 members will be to provide additional non-clinical staffing at community hospitals and high-volume emergency departments, public hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and dialysis centers. These guard personnel will be deployed beginning the week of January 17.