BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts remains aggressive in its efforts to test for the coronavirus even as the number being conducted falls short of the state’s capacity to process about 30,000 tests a day, Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday.
“If we were a country, we’d probably be a top five per-capita tester in the world and we’re certainly a top five per-capita tester here in the United States,” the Republican said at a press conference after touring a New Balance factory in Lawrence, which has converted its operations to produce personal protective equipment for health care workers.
Baker attributed some of the slump in testing to an easing of demand as the state makes progress against the virus. On Monday, the state reported about 5,000 new tests conducted using either molecular or antibody tests.
“We had 30% of our tests coming back positive 30 to 40 days ago and now we have on some days under 5% of our tests coming back positive,” he said. “That changes the nature with respect to who’s looking for tests.”
Baker said the state is still ramping up access to testing, including adding 20 additional testing sites across Massachusetts, particularly in under-served areas.
“The number of tests and our testing capacity are both going to go up over time both as we expand the number of places where you can actually get tested and as we make the move into what I would describe as an ongoing testing regimen," Baker said.
Baker last month laid out an ambitious plan to boost overall capacity to 45,000 tests a day by the end of July and 75,000 tests a day by the end of December — the equivalent of 27 million tests per year.
"We are still very much in this fight and we will be in this fight until there are treatments and vaccines," Baker said.
VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS
State officials on Tuesday reported the total number of confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts now stands at nearly 104,000 with the addition of 263 newly reported cases, a further indication of progress against the disease in Massachusetts as the number of new cases continues to slow.
There were 55 new deaths reported Monday, bringing the total number of confirmed and probable deaths in the state since the start of the pandemic to 7,408.
There were fewer than 1,400 people hospitalized with COVID-19, down from about 2,100 two weeks ago. The number of people in intensive care units fell to 314, down from 560 two weeks ago.
The number of probable and confirmed COVID-19 deaths at long-term care homes rose to 4,630, or more than 62% of all deaths.
REOPENING OF BARS DELAYED
Bars in Massachusetts will have to wait a while longer before being allowed to reopen under the phased-in approach set out by the governor.
Baker said most businesses have stayed in whichever of the four phases they were placed in as part of the reopening process. The state just entered phase two, which allows for the reopening of retail shops and outside dining at restaurants provided they adhere to public health measures like social distancing, the use of masks and limited capacity.
Baker said the big issue with bars is coming up with a model that allows them to operate safely.
“As we’ve seen in a number of other places around the country that have moved forward very aggressively, they’ve started to see a pretty significant rise in new cases and we’re going to work very hard to make sure that doesn’t happen here in Massachusetts,” he said.
DATA COLLECTION BILL
Baker said his administration has filed a bill to improve the state’s ability to collect data to help measure the impact of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, particularly on older residents and individuals in communities of color.
The bill builds on a similar bill he signed into law on Sunday, Baker said.
The new bill in part would require information on patient demographics collected by labs and health care providers be reported to the Department of Public Health to help ensure the most complete information is available to help the state direct its response to the disease, according to Baker.
PLIMOTH PLANTATION REOPENING
Plimoth Plantation, the Massachusetts living history museum that highlights the lives of the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Tribe soon after the arrival of the Mayflower in 1620, is reopening this week.
The museum's outdoor areas and a limited number of buildings are opening to members on Wednesday and to the general public on Thursday, according to the museum's website.
Capacity at the 30-acre site is limited and management is asking visitors to purchase tickets in advance.
Visitors are asked to wear masks. The museum is also placing hand-sanitizing stations throughout the facility. Employees will also wear masks.
The museum's Patuxet Wampanoag Homesite, 17th-century English village, barn and animal pastures and gardens are opening.
Plimoth Plantation is open seven days a week.