Baker: State will distribute 2 million free at-home COVID-19 tests

BOSTON — Free rapid testing at home. The state took its first step to get millions of do-it-yourself testing kits into some of the hardest-hit areas at no charge to people. The state bought the tests for $10 million and they will go out tomorrow.

But the specifics on who and when individuals will get those tests are still to be determined by each city and town getting them. Sandy Matthews lives in Dorchester and says many people she knows can’t afford to buy those tests on their own.

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“There are families that don’t have money like that to buy things,” Matthews said.

Home COVID test kits have been a luxury for some people. The test kits have been used by people to screen for COVID before they get together. Gov. Charlie Baker explained many people have been using them.

“They have proven to be a very effective tool, especially for people who are going to be gathering indoors,” Baker said.

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Gov. Baker announced Tuesday they are making 2.1 million of I-Health rapid COVID tests available to 102 communities where families may not be using them because of the price. The antigen tests give a result within 15 minutes with accuracy in the upper 90% range. Positive results would not be counted towards the state’s official COVID case count.

The governor said they are leaving it up to each city or town to decide how the free at-home tests kits will be distributed.

“They know their communities best, and that is why we are letting them determine the appropriate strategy for distributing these tests to their residents,” Baker said.

Mayor Michelle Wu said, in a statement, “with this infusion of rapid tests from the state, Boston will be able to dramatically expand our capacity to test and protect community members, first responders, and essential workers as we see a winter surge.

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“I applaud the Baker administration for working to supplement cities’ and towns’ efforts to remove barriers for access to fast, reliable, and free testing.”

Boston says it has already purchased 20,000 similar tests on its own for hard-hit areas. The state is also trying to get test makers to sell their test kits to cities and towns at a lower bulk rate price.

“We expect municipalities to be able to purchase these tests kits in bulk by January,” Baker said.

The state said the goal is to arm people with a way to monitor the virus and make informed decisions if they get a positive result.

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