BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker laid out an ambitious testing goal Thursday that he said will create the largest coronavirus testing program on a per capita basis anywhere in the world.
The plan calls for boosting 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. The goal is to decrease the positive test rate to less than 5% while helping labs increase capacity before a potential testing surge in the fall.
On Wednesday there was a 14 percent positive rate, Baker said.. The state has the lab capacity for about 30,000 tests per day and has been processing about a third to a half of that each day.
The state will continue to target tests toward vulnerable populations, including medical workers, residents and staff in assisted living facilities, and the incarcerated. Some of the expanded testing will also be used to help look for outbreaks.
Baker stopped short of calling for universal testing.
“It’s a valuable tool, testing, but it’s not the only tool that we have to fight back against the virus,” Baker said.
Other tools include social distancing, the use of masks or facial coverings, frequent hand washing and contact tracing.
From April 20 through last weekend, six chartered flights from China landed in Massachusetts carrying more than 7.5 million pieces of protective gear -- the vast majority of them masks, Baker said.
Here are the latest coronavirus-related developments in Massachusetts:
COVID-19 continues to take a terrible toll in Massachusetts.
There were 167 COVID-19-related deaths reported Thursday, bringing to 5,482 the total number of deaths recorded since the pandemic’s start. That's the third highest number of deaths by state after New York and New Jersey.
The deaths come days before the state is set to release a plan to reopen the economy.
The total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts neared 82,200 after the state reported an additional 1,700 individuals who tested positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus.
There were still some bright spots Thursday.
The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care dipped again to 781, while the number of people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 fell below 3,000, down to 2,859.
The number of deaths at long-term care facilities stood at 3,338 — or nearly 61% of all Massachusetts COVID-19-related deaths.
COVID-19 TEST SITES
CVS is opening 10 new COVID-19 test sites at Massachusetts pharmacy locations starting Friday, the company said.
The Massachusetts locations are among 51 sites that will begin operating in Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, and Pennsylvania, the Rhode Island-based company said in a statement Thursday.
The new sites will utilize self-swab tests that won't require people to leave their vehicles. No testing will be done in stores.
Patients will be given a test kit and instructions at the drive-thru window. A CVS employee will observe to ensure the test is done properly. Tests will be sent to a third-party lab for processing, with results available in about three days.
Preregistration is required.
Massachusetts state court say they hope to be able to hold jury trials in September.
In a letter sent to lawyers Thursday, Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants, Appeals Court Chief Justice Mark Green and Trial Court Chief Justice Paula Carey said they expect courthouses to reopen this summer and hope jury trials can happen again come September, if schools reopen.
The courts have been closed to the public except for emergency matters.
Even after the courthouses reopen, most legal matters will still be done virtually, they said.
“The days when our Trial Court welcomed 40,000 persons a day into our courthouses are over, at least for the duration of the pandemic,” they wrote.
Massachusetts’ casinos will remain closed at least until June 1, state gaming regulators voted Thursday.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission had previously ordered casinos, which shuttered March 15, to close at least through May 18.
Gov. Charlie Baker is expected to release a plan to open some businesses Monday.
The state’s three casinos — Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, MGM Springfield, and Plainridge Park in Plainville — submitted to regulators detailed plans for how they plan to limit the spread of the virus when they’re allowed to reopen. They also said they’d need at least 14 days notice before reopening.
Some Massachusetts lawmakers have proposed a $5 million fund to help families struggling to pay the burial costs of loved ones lost to the coronavirus pandemic.
A bipartisan proposal, backed by nearly a dozen lawmakers, would provide individual grants of up to $1,500 for qualifying families, The Salem News reports.
Families of “essential workers" who remained on the job during the outbreak and died as a result of the virus, would be given priority.
Associated Press writers Alanna Durkin Richer and Philip Marcelo contributed to this report.