Massachusetts to expand testing for COVID-19

BOSTON — Getting coronavirus tests and fitting the criteria needed for approval has been tough everywhere, but that may be changing in Massachusetts. Only 475 people have been tested, according to the state. But at the State Health Department Lab in Jamaica Plain, testing is being expanded.

Right now, the state has the capacity to test 200 people per day, if they had that many tests. With production ramping up and with one swab being allowed now instead of two, the Baker administration says it could reach about 400 soon.

Tim Richardt, a fitness trainer, spoke with Boston 25 News – from a distance – as health leaders continued to stress social distancing to help lessen the spread of COVID-19.

Richardt is making adjustments too.

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“I've stopped taking new clients, new patients,” he said. “Backed off, doing a lot more distance […] online coaching.”

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker says streamlining testing is vital to mitigating coronavirus.

“What we really want to do is test the people who need to be tested,” he said. “Whether it’s in a drive-thru or whether it’s in an office or whether it’s in a clinic or whether It’s in a hospital, the key here is to make sure we test more people.”

Boston 25 News has learned a third company, Waltham-based Thermo Fisher Scientific, received FDA approval to create more tests, joining two other labs.

Nurses and doctors are also being given new latitude to collect specimens of possible COVID-19 cases without state approval.

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“They'll be able to take the specimen, one swab and send it into the lab,” said Marylou Sudders, the Health and Human Services Secretary.

A new command center for coronavirus response will operate out of the state lab in Jamaica Plain. Tough strategic decisions will be made there regarding testing, medical supplies and what to do if hospitals become overwhelmed.

The governor also added that any state funds needed to fight COVID-19 will be available.

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