Gov. Charlie Baker announced Friday that state public health officials have created a new program to track the spread of the COVID-19 virus in Massachusetts.
The “COVID-19 Community Tracing Collaborative” is a partnership between the Baker administration and Partners In Health, a global health care nonprofit based in Boston, that will provide staff and expertise in tracking the spread of coronavirus in Massachusetts and following up with people who have been infected.
Baker said the collaborative will utilize a staff of about 1,00 people, including volunteers, to call individual patients.
“Staff will contact recent COVID-19 patients and ensure they’re healthy and taking appropriate steps to not spread the virus further,” Baker said.
Baker said the program is the first of its kind in the United States, and will be a key part of the state’s strategy going forward.
The governor said the state is also quickly ramping up testing for the virus, as public health officials brace for an expected peak of infections in the coming weeks.
Baker said 56,000 tests have been administered so far, and that the state has met or exceeded its goal of administering at least 3,000 new tests every day in recent days.
Massachusetts will also see the state’s first drive-through testing site open Sunday, in Foxborough. The facility will serve first responders.
The Baker administration also gave an update on the death and infection toll among residents of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, a nursing home that serves elderly military veterans, and which has seen a rash of deaths from COVID-19 infections.
Massachusetts Secretary of Public Health Marylou Sudders said that as of Friday, 21 veteran residents had died over roughly the past week.
State officials have tested all residents, including all decedents, for the coronavirus. Of the 21 deaths, Sudders said, there were 15 confirmed infections of coronavirus, although the full results were not yet available.
Among other residents, 59 have tested positive for the virus and 160 tested negative.
Sudders said officials have created separated units within the home and are closely monitoring residents’ health.
She also said there have been two deaths at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, the same number reported earlier this week.
On Wednesday, Baker announced an independent investigation into the Holyoke deaths.