Baker wants to be world’s biggest COVID-19 tester
Sets ramp-up goals for end of July, December
GOV. CHARLIE BAKER unveiled a COVID-19 testing initiative on Thursday that he said would make Massachusetts the biggest tester on a per capita basis in the world.
Massachusetts is already a worldwide leader in testing. The state averaged 10,377 COVID-19 tests a day in May and has the capacity to do 30,000 tests a day.
The governor wants to ramp capacity up to 45,000 a day by the end of July and 75,000 a day by the end of December. The goal is to reduce the positive test rate (positive tests as a percentage of all tests done) to below 5 percent. The positive test rate was 12 percent on Thursday.
The testing goals and the timetable for them are another signal that reopening the state’s economy will be a long, slow process. In announcing the new goals, Baker casually mentioned that the buildup in capacity is needed to prepare for a possible surge in testing in the fall. He also said the state would not attempt universal testing because it wouldn’t be available in time for the state’s reopening, suggesting the July and December testing targets are part of the state’s phased approach to reopening.
Baker said federal funds will be needed to build the infrastructure necessary to ramp up testing in the state. The governor said the state will apply for the funding, which was part of the CARES Act, by the end of this month.
“If we reach the testing goals that we’re seeking to achieve, we’ll be the largest and biggest tester on a per capita basis in the world – actually by a significant margin,” Baker said.
The state, according to guidance from the Department of Public Health, is targeting those with COVID-19 symptoms; contacts of those who have tested positive or are exhibiting symptoms; those who work around people with COVID-19; and people in congregate care settings, group homes, state hospitals, and prisons. Medical officials are given leeway to even test people who they believe have COVID-19 but are asymptomatic.
CVS, the national pharmacy chain, said on Thursday it is beginning a national rollout of testing operations at 1,000 of its stores using self-swab kits. The company said it expects to ramp up to 1.5 million tests a month.
In Massachusetts, CVS is rolling out its self-swab test sites at stores in Charlton, Worcester, Raynham, Northampton, Bridgewater, Carver, West Springfield, Danvers, Westport, and Wellesley.
People tested at CVS will arrange a time online, pull up, be handed a test kit, administer the test themselves, and put the swab in a container for transport. Baker said the long test swabs that used to be inserted into the nose and down the throat are being replaced by smaller swabs that individuals can administer themselves by swabbing the nose or the inside of the cheek.
Massachusetts currently ranks second in the nation in tests per thousand people, behind only New York, according to calculations by CommonWealth using data as of May 13. Massachusetts administers 59.4 tests per 1,000 people, while New York administers 64.7 tests per 1,000 people.
New York has administered a total of nearly 1.3 million tests, compared to 410,032 in Massachusetts. Massachusetts ranks seventh in the nation in terms of total tests, behind New York, California, Florida, Texas, Illinois, and New Jersey.
According to Our World in Data, a project based at the University of Oxford, the top five countries for COVID-19 tests per 1,000 people are Iceland, Estonia, Norway, Switzerland, and Italy. The United States is sixth on the list at 28 tests per 1,000 people. The rankings are based on data as of Tuesday.
If Massachusetts were a country, it would rank second behind Iceland. Iceland, with 346,000 people, administers 160 tests per 1,000 people.
Here are the top five states in the nation for testing per 1000 people
New York – 64.73 per 1000
Massachusetts- 59.4 per 1000
New Jersey- 50.16 per 1000
Illinois- 38.62 per 1000
Florida- 27.72 per 1000
Here are the top six countries (and Massachusetts) for testing per 1000 people:
Iceland- 160.44 per 1000
Massachusetts- 59.4 per 1000
Estonia- 48.98 per 1000
Norway- 37.86 per 1000
Switzerland- 36.61 per 1000Italy- 28.81 per 1000