State Watch

Massachusetts to distribute 2M at-home rapid COVID-19 tests

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Massachusetts will distribute more than 2 million at-home COVID-19 tests to some of the state’s most vulnerable communities as the region braces for a winter spike in cases, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) said Monday.

Baker said his administration has secured 2.1 million over-the-counter rapid tests from iHealth Labs that will be delivered to the 100 towns with the highest percentage of families below the poverty level. Those municipalities account for nearly 3.7 million Massachusetts residents.

“Like vaccines, these rapid at-home tests are potentially a game changer as we continue to battle COVID here in the Commonwealth. The big problem in many cases for many people have been costs and supply,” Baker said. 

Massachusetts is paying $5 per test, and the tests come in packs of two.

Baker said the commonwealth is also finalizing plans to allow municipalities and other public entities to directly purchase tests from test manufacturers at fixed, state-negotiated prices beginning in January.

Municipalities are able to utilize American Rescue Plan Act funding, as well as federal COVID-19 relief funding, to purchase the rapid antigen test kits.

“While these tests are widely available at many pharmacies and retail locations across the Commonwealth, we are making it even easier for residents to get free rapid testing through these initiatives,” Baker said.

Other states, including Colorado and neighboring New Hampshire, have also worked to distribute free rapid tests to residents. But rather than mailing tests to individuals, the free tests will be sent to cities and towns for distribution to the public. 

Each city or town will be able to determine how best to distribute tests within their community, but they are being asked to prioritize those most in need.

Advocates have been pushing for greater access to rapid at-home tests for more than a year, saying that frequent and cheap rapid tests can help limit spread of the virus without resorting to business closures by giving people the ability to know when they are infectious and need to isolate and when they are not. 

Nationally, the Biden administration is facing calls to make rapid testing more affordable and accessible. Officials have announced a plan for Americans with private insurance to be reimbursed for the costs of the tests, but it has faced criticism for being too cumbersome and adding unnecessary barriers.  

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 tests

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