Massachusetts issues new isolation protocols, buys 26 million rapid tests


Governor Charlie Baker’s administration plans to distribute 26 million rapid tests to schools and child care providers in the coming months as a “legitimate alternative” to PCR tests.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker at a news conference Tuesday morning. Jonathan Wiggs / The Greeley Tribune Globe

Governor Charlie Baker’s administration is clarifying its recommendations for Massachusetts residents who have been exposed to or infected with COVID-19, as the state continues to record infection rates and rising hospitalizations this winter. highly permeable but usually milky Omicron Edition.

In line with recent federal guidelines, the new Department of Public Health advisory issued Tuesday only advises residents to seek a COVID-19 test if they are performing. symptoms of disease Or five days later they came into contact with someone who had tested positive, regardless of vaccination status.

Although many testing sites around Massachusetts are plagued by long lines and wait times, Baker stressed on Tuesday that there is no need to confirm a rapid COVID-19 test result by a PCR test. He also discouraged organizations from requiring individuals to undergo PCR tests to return from isolation.

According to Baker, rapid antigen tests are not only “convenient and efficient” but should also be sufficient.

“PCR tests are often used at drive-thru and on-site testing facilities,” he told reporters during a news conference on Tuesday. “They can take up to 24 to 72 hours to produce results, whereas rapid tests … can turn up results in as little as 15 minutes. Rapid tests are highly accurate in determining whether a person is most susceptible to COVID-19.” And they have many advantages over PCR testing, especially during this pandemic.

To be clear, the new DPH advice does not recommend employers, schools, or child care providers require any testing after individuals end their isolation period,

“However, if they do require testing, the DPH recommends that they do not require PCR testing,” Baker said.

If you test positive for COVID-19

Everyone, regardless of vaccination status: Stay at home for 5 days.
– If you do not have any symptoms or your symptoms are getting better after 5 days, you can leave your home.
– Continue to wear the mask around others for an additional 5 days.

If you have a fever, stay home until your fever is gone.

If you have come in contact with someone who has COVID-19

If You: Extended

Completed a primary series of Pfizer or Moderna Vaccines within the last 5 months
Completed primary series of J&J vaccine within last 2 months
Wear a mask around others for 10 days.
– Test on Day 5 if possible.

Get tested and stay home if you develop symptoms.

If you:Completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna Vaccine 5 months in advance and has not been extended
Completed J&J’s primary series more than 2 months ago and not boosted
not vaccinated
Stay at home for 5 days. After that continue wearing the mask around others for 5 additional days.
If you cannot quarantine then you will have to wear a mask for 10 days.
– Test on Day 5 if possible.

Get tested and stay home if you develop symptoms

Baker said his office had inadvertently heard from testing sites that “many” people were doing it because they were required to get a PCR test done by an employer or school. With Many test sites are grappling with staffing, the governor indicated that the state has no plans to open up further.

“We believe that antigen tests, which are very accurate, especially on the back end of contagion, are a perfectly suitable solution,” he said. “And I think one thing we’re trying to clarify here today is that, for both individuals and employers in general, a PCR test is appropriate in certain circumstances. But the use of these rapid tests is a valid one in many circumstances. can be done as an alternative.”

Also, the new DPH advisory states that people with symptoms of COVID-19 who test negative in the rapid antigen test should continue to isolate and either undergo another rapid test in 24 to 48 hours. Or get a PCR test done if their symptoms continue.

The new guidance comes as Baker announced Tuesday morning that the state has secured 26 million additional rapid antigen tests, which they plan to distribute on a rolling basis to K-12 schools and child care centers by the end of March. are. The shipments include 2.1 million rapid tests purchased by the administration last month for communities with high poverty rates and 200,000 recently distributed to schools returning from winter break.

Depending on the supply, Baker said the idea of ​​making free take-home testing “more widely available if we can, is certainly something that’s on our radar.”

The Republican governor also said he would activate an additional 500 members of the National Guard to join the 500 Guard members providing non-clinical assistance to small-staffed hospitals dealing with a surge in COVID-19 patients .

As of Monday, Massachusetts averages about 19,000 new COVID-19 cases a day, triple the peak rate during the previous winter’s increase and likely a massive decrease.

The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations – that is disproportionately unvaccinated residents – is also nearing 3,000, a level not seen since May 2020, at a time when hospitals are also suffering from staff shortages. are facing.

Baker stressed on Tuesday that vaccines “remain our best tool” against COVID-19.

“Data on this is not available at this time,” he said.

While new quarantine protocols recommend all exposed individuals receive a COVID-19 test five days after their exposure, it is not a requirement, especially for those who have recently been vaccinated and do not have symptoms. .

The new advisory states that close contacts who got a booster shot received their second dose of Moderna or Pfizer vaccine within five months, got their single dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine two months apart, or lasted for COVID-19. Thi should wear a mask for 10 days to 90 days and get tested “if possible” on the fifth day.

Baker noted that Massachusetts is continuing to administer between 40,000 and 50,000 vaccine doses a day between primary series shots and boosters.

“Vaccination and promotion are really your best possible protection from getting sick,” he said. “Testing in combination with vaccines has a specific use. And we hope DPH’s advisory will help people navigate this issue.”