Massachusetts to offer rapid mobile testing units to schools
BOSTON — Massachusetts health officials will begin offering rapid mobile testing units to schools that request them in the fall as Gov. Charlie Baker continues to encourage schools in communities with low coronavirus transmission rates to open for full or hybrid in-classroom teaching.
The testing units would be deployed if a school meets certain criteria and requests the help.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders said Thursday that the criteria would include two or more students, teachers or staff members not from the same household who test positive for COVID-19 within a 14-day period, with the transmission of the disease likely occurring in the classroom.
Testing students would require permission from parents, she said.
Baker said the testing units shouldn’t be used as a replacement for testing that is already available at locations across the state.
Baker said nearly three-quarters of school districts in the state are either planning to reopen with full in-person learning or hybrid learning models.
“I don’t think we should go into this with the assumption that it can’t be done, because it has been done successfully,” he said during the Thursday press conference. “This can be done.”
Baker said the average turnaround time for getting the results of a COVID-19 test is down to about two days in Massachusetts.
“The week-long delays we’ve seen elsewhere in the country, simply are not the norm here in the commonwealth,” he said.
VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS
Massachusetts reported 12 newly confirmed coronavirus deaths and more than 260 newly confirmed cases on Thursday, pushing the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to nearly 8,660 and its confirmed caseload to more than 115,300.
The seven-day weighted average of positive tests was about 1.3%. The true number of cases is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
The state on Wednesday also reported a total of 9,370 probable cases and more than 230 probable COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic — in addition to the confirmed cases.
There were nearly 380 people reported hospitalized Thursday because of COVID-19, while more than 60 were in intensive care units.
The number of confirmed and probable COVID-19 related deaths at long-term care homes rose to more than 5,690 or about 64% of all confirmed and probable deaths in Massachusetts attributed to the disease.
Ten people who work at a Massachusetts courthouse have tested positive for the coronavirus, and the building will remain closed until further notice, according to a court official.
In addition to the 10 New Bedford District Court employees who tested positive, 25 have tested negative for the disease and additional test results are pending, trial court spokeswoman Jennifer Donahue told The Standard-Times.
The facility closed for cleaning and disinfecting last week after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. Donahue said in an email Wednesday that court officials do not yet have a reopening date for the public.
“The Trial Court is analyzing the protocol in response to this situation and working with the Department of Public Health,” she said, “There are still virtual hearings going on, and in-person matters for New Bedford are currently taking place in Fall River.”