The Baker-Polito administration has purchased 2.1 million OTC rapid-antigen COVID-19 test kits that will be delivered to 102 Massachusetts towns this week. Holyoke, as well as Amherst, Northampton, Huntington, South Hadley, Springfield, and Ware, are among the 102 municipalities the administration has targeted as being among those Massachusetts towns with the highest percentage of families living at or below the poverty level. These towns account for almost 3.7 million Massachusetts residents.
This attempt by state leadership to curb the Christmas COVID spread, cost the Commonwealth $5.00 per test kit, in packs of 2. The tests can be completed in 15 minutes and don't require being sent out to a laboratory for confirmation. Whether you're 2 or two hundred years old, whether you've been vaccinated and boosted, or have symptoms or not, the tests can be used.
The tests will be distributed proportionally across the 102 communities by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, in partnership with the Massachusetts National Guard, based on the proportion of families living at or below the poverty level in each community.
“With the holidays approaching, we encourage residents to utilize rapid tests as a convenient way to keep family members and friends safe at gatherings. While these tests are widely available at many pharmacies and retail locations across the Commonwealth, we are making it even easier for residents to get free rapid testing through these initiatives.” - Gov. Charlie Baker
According to the Public Health Institute of Western MA, Hampden County has seen a rise in positive COVID tests from 5.72% to 7.28% over the past two weeks; an increase of confirmed cases from 2,578 cases to 3,809; and an average daily increase of cases from 39.1 to 57.8 per capita. Officials are expecting more increases in all areas during the coming weeks before and after Christmas.
The state continues to use “gold-standard” PCR tests with results back as quickly as 24 to 36 hours in Holyoke's free “Stop the Spread” testing sites, which includes a drive-up testing location at Holyoke Community College and a walk-up testing site at Holyoke’s War Memorial at 310 Appleton Street.
It has yet to be decided where the free at-home COVID-19 test kits will be distributed in Holyoke.