Gov. Charlie Baker announced Wednesday that the state is partnering with Quest Diagnostics and the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers to increase the number of tests for coronavirus at several community health centers.
Baker said that Quest has agreed to ship 2,200 tests per day to 12 community health centers and that more will be added soon. The first group includes facilities and operations in Quincy, Brockton, Lowell, Fall River, New Beford, Worcester, Provincetown and multiple Boston sites.
He also gave updates on the state's community tracing efforts. He said that more than 30 community health centers are working with the state to help the community tracing collaborative identify those who have been in contact with people who have tested positive for the coronavirus.
"Over time, tracing is critical to helping us understand the spread of the virus and helping us return to the new normal," he said.
He urged everyone to participate in the tracing program and to pick up the phone if called about tracing. He said the state is working with cell phone service providers to make sure that calls show up as MA COVID TEAM and aren't blocked by caller ID. He also cautioned that social distancing and other measures are still needed.
Baker also pointed out that while over the last few days, there have been fewer or about the same number of new positive coronavirus cases each day, it's still too soon to draw a conclusion from that data.
"First, a few days does not represent a trend. We've seen this data bounce around before," he said. "And secondly, the number of positive tests is entirely dependent on who you test. ... Daily positive test totals don't necessarily represent what's happening across the entire commonwealth."
As he closed, Baker acknowledged that Tuesday's announcement that schools would remain closed through the end of the school year underscored just how much has changed. He emphasized that Massachusetts is now a national hostspot for infections and that efforts have to continue to curb the virus.
"If we move too quickly, we risk losing the progress that we've made so far," he said. "And our health care workers and our hospitals, which have been working hard on our behalf, are pushing back against the virus, and they need us to push back, too. We owe it to them, and we owe it to our parents and our friends and our neighbors to keep up the fight and to win."
Lieutenant Gov. Karyn Polito also said that the Massachusetts Broadband Institute is working with the state-owned network and local Internet service providers to offer new, free Wi-Fi hotspots to some municipalities.
"These wi-fi hotspots will offer on a rolling basis unserved communities to a high-speed connection free of any charge at a public community anchor institution identified by the local ISP," she said.
She said Massachusetts Broadband is tracking the hotspots as they come online and posting them at broadband.masstech.org/wifi.