Good news: State hitting target for COVID-19 tests

Mass. also gets deliveries of protective equipment

THE BAKER ADMINISTRATION appeared to exceed its target goal for daily COVID-19 testing on Tuesday, reporting that 4,827 patients had been tested over the previous 24 hours.

The increase was well beyond the target of 3,500 tests, but it was accomplished mostly by an unusually large increase in tests conducted by Quest Diagnostics in Marlborough, which reported testing a total of 3,843 patients between Monday’s state report and Tuesday’s report.

Gov. Charlie Baker, at a midday press conference before the latest test results were announced, said the state was closing in on its daily target but hadn’t reached it yet. Officials at the Department of Public Health could not be reached for comment after the results were reported at 4 p.m.

Baker also had good news on the delivery of personal protection equipment for those treating patients with COVID-19. He said several deliveries had come in from the national stockpile of equipment, yielding 750,000 masks, face shields, gowns, and gloves that are being distributed to hospitals across the state. More equipment had also been donated by private groups

Testing for COVID-19 is regarded as one of the most important tools the state has to respond to the COVID-19 epidemic. Testing for the virus allows people to learn they are infected so they can take steps to reduce the possibility that they will infect others. Testing also allows public health officials to track the spread of the disease and trace back contamination patterns and attempt to shut them down.

Massachusetts got off to a slow start on testing, first relying on the state lab run by the Department of Public Health and then eventually two national testing laboratories, Quest and LabCorp. An additional 10 testing labs started reporting results over the weekend.

Quest said on Tuesday that its 12 labs nationwide are currently doing 25,000 tests a day and expect to ramp up to 30,000 by the end of the week. Quest said it did 24,000 tests alone on Monday. The company said its average turnaround time is four to five days, but that can vary from a day or two to seven days.

“Although we are rapidly expanding testing capacity, demand for the testing is growing faster, and we cannot accommodate everyone who wants testing and meet tight turnaround time expectations,” the company said in a statement.

Gov. Charlie Baker at press conference in Gardner Auditorium at the State House; (Pool photo by Matt Stone/Boston Herald)

Quest said it is working with health care systems to prioritize testing for in-hospital patients and symptomatic hospital health care workers, in effect allowing them to go to the head of the testing line.

But some Boston hospitals, including Beth Israel Deaconess, Children’s Hospital, Partners HealthCare (which operates many hospitals, including Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s), and Tufts Medical Center, have begun doing their own testing. According to Tuesday data from the Department of Public Health, Beth Israel has tested 1,095 patients so far, followed by Partners at 742 and Tufts at 221.

David Raiser, the cofounder and CEO of Aldatu Biosciences in Watertown, said his company is providing one of the Boston hospitals with the ability to test patient samples for COVID-19. He said the hospital is now capable of doing tests in-house and getting results within a day. He said the hospital can do hundreds of tests each day, up to a maximum of 800 a day.

“The advantage of on-site testing is fairly profound,” Raiser said, pointing out that a hospital that can get results quickly for patients as well as identify employees who are infected. “We can do it right away at a time when same-day testing really counts,” he said.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Raiser said the cost for the hospital is about $25 per test, or a quarter of what LabCorp is charging.

Raiser declined to name the Boston hospital because the client fears it will be inundated with patients once they learn the facility has a quick turnaround on test results.