We may be in for a maskless Memorial Day weekend this year, but another early prevention tool in this pandemic isn't going away any time soon.

"With the rollout of vaccination initially we still needed testing," said Dr. Ann Woolley, an infectious disease specialist at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Last spring, testing became a crucial way to stem the spread of the virus with both symptomatic and asymptomatic infection. Testing supplies were short at first, and only a select few could get tested. As spring became summer, availability widened, with more and more testing sites popping up. By the fall and through this past winter, sites were performing and processing an average of 100,000 tests a day.

That number has since dropped as vaccinations have increased. But according to Woolley, testing was even more crucial as that rollout began.

"Testing was not only still so critical in being able to diagnose acute infections, etc., but it was also very important for us to learn about the real world evidence of vaccination," Woolley said.

Woolley said that testing is also crucial in detecting other respiratory viruses like the flu, and researchers are working on a single test that can detect a wide range of upper-respiratory infections, including COVID-19, the flu and other common airborne illnesses.

"What I'd say is testing is not going away," she said. "It can't, and it shouldn't, go away anytime soon."

Despite the state relaxing pandemic restrictions soon, millions of residents remain unvaccinated. We heard from Dr. Alister Martin, an emergency physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, about the GOTVax campaign through MGH and Boston Medical Center. The campaign is vaccinating residents in harder-hit communities.

Click on the audio player above to listen to the full episode.


Dr. Alister Martin - 2:40
Dr. Anne Woolley - 16:03