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Gov. Charlie Baker speaks about the state's testing capacity on Thursday.

Baker Sets Goal of 75,000 COVID-19 Tests Daily by Year's End

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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BOSTON — Massachusetts has set the ambitious goal of processing testing for COVID-19 to 75,000 tests a day by the end of the year, at least seven times the number currently being done. 
 
Gov. Charlie Baker said testing capacity will be critical to the state's ability to safely reopen for commercial and social activities. 
 
"Important groundwork has been laid to expand lab capacity and testing infrastructure," Baker said at Thursday's pandemic update. "Now we need to build on that foundation, as we continue to fight the virus for the long term."
 
Overall testing capacity has risen to about 30,000 a day with about 10,000 to 12,000 tests currently being done; Wednesday saw 14,000 processed. 
 
 The governor's plan calls for boosting capacity to 45,000 a day by the end of July, or 16 million a year; by the end of December, 75,000 a day or 27 million a year.
 
The goal will be to decrease the positive testing rate to 5 percent. It's currently ranged from 9 percent to 14 percent, down from a quarter to a third of tests coming back positive a month ago. 
 
The governor said testing capacity, in combination with the safety mandates outlined on Tuesday for social distancing, sanitization and wearing of face covering and supplies of personnel protective equipement, will be critical for the state's recovery. It will also allow the Bay State to prepare for an expected "second wave" of novel coronavirus infections in the fall.
 
"The initiatives that we laid out today are crucial to our efforts to continue to fight the virus, but they also lay the groundwork for a successful reopening of our economy on a phased in basis," he said. "Implementing our long-term testing strategy will be critical to keeping people safe, even as we start to open things back up. ...
 
"Our top priority is fighting the virus as we return to something like a new normal."
 
On Wednesday, the Department of Public Health somewhat loosened the strictures on who can be tested to include symptomatic individuals, those who have had close contact with confirmed cases and those whose employment puts them at risk. 
 
The advisory for testing now includes mild systems such as fever, chills, lower respiratory illness, head and body aches, fatigue, loss of taste or smell, and, less common, gastrointestinal symptoms and inflammatory conditions. Testing must still be referred by a hospital or physician.
 
"We also want to support randomized testing for surveillance purposes, which will be built on the work being done by the Community Tracing Collaborative to track the virus and understand what communities are seeking seeing infections," the governor said.
 
CVS, which set up some of the first community testing sites, is expanding to open 10 more testing locations including in Northampton and West Springfield as part of a national program. Referred individuals can make appointments to go to the drive-up window, receive a kit for self-testing, and have it sent by CVS to a lab for processing. 
 
The new testing kits have shorter swabs that not only allow for self-testing but also require far less PPE for those administering them.
 
Baker said universal testing has been ruled out because of its limitations and that the focus will be on a strategically applied and target approach as recemmended by medical and public health experts.
 
"There's no half currently to achieving what many refer to as universal testing, which has its own limitations," he said. "And it's frankly too far off to rely on for our reopening."
 
Baker said the state will be submitting its plan to the federal government for testing resource support under the federal COVID-19 legislation passed last month. 
 
In regard to protective gear, the governor said his team has been working with Chinese officials to get equipment not made in the United States. More than 7.5 million pieces of PPE have been delivered via six chartered flights to Logan International Airport since April 20. 
 
Baker said the containment of COVID-19 is not be possible without residents voluntarily curtailing their non-essential activities and abiding by the stay-home advisory and, once the reopening report comes out Monday, continuing to follow those guidelines.
 
"When you look at all the mobility data that's been generated by by Google and others, Massachusetts, once again, is a top five player and people's willingness under an advisory to adopt those principles and practices themselves which we are enormously grateful for," he said. 
 
"As we move forward on the phased deployment, it will be incredibly important maybe even more important that people take seriously the guidance and the criteria and the protocols that are going to be part of that report."

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Hoosac Harvest Annual Seedling Swap Returns

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Hoosac Harvest's Annual Seedling Swap returns to downtown this year on Saturday, May 25 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the North Adams Farmers Market in its new location on Main Street.
 
All seedlings are available at no cost; there's no requirement to bring any in order to take some home. Whether individuals are dropping off seedlings for exchange or visiting to browse, it's advisable to bring a tray for collecting new plants. Shared seedlings may include surplus vegetables or flowers purchased or cultivated, as well as cuttings or excess plants from personal yards. Participants are encouraged to bring and exchange whatever they can.
 
All donations go toward subsidizing CSA shares—weekly "shares" of a local farmer's produce over the course of an annual growing season—for people in the community. 
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