BOSTON (WWLP) — Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker provided an update Tuesday on COVID testing throughout the state. He was joined with Lt. Governor Karyn Polito and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders to announce an additional shipment of iHealth COVID-19 Antigen Rapid test kits.

Distribution plans for the rapid tests will be determined soon. Testing kits are expected to number 26 million over the next three months, with timing depending on shipping arrival. They will be distributed to support K-12 education and child care facilities.

Baker said municipalities can apply to buy bulk amounts for their community. Rapid COVID tests are to be used on individuals within five days of their close contact with someone infected with coronavirus or experiencing COVID symptoms—which may appear two to 14 days after exposure—including:

  1. Fever, chills or shaking chills
  2. Signs of a lower respiratory illness (e.g., cough, shortness of breath, lowered oxygen saturation)
  3. Fatigue, sore throat, headache, body aches/myalgia, or new loss of sense of taste or smell
  4. Other less common symptoms can include gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g. nausea, vomiting, diarrhea), rash, and inflammatory conditions such as “COVID toes
  5. In elderly, chronically ill, or debilitated individuals such as residents of a long-term care facility, symptoms of COVID may be subtle such as alterations in mental status or in blood glucose control

The Department of Public Health is recommending that employers do not require a PCR COVID test to return to work and say if employers do require it, they recommend not requiring it to be a PCR test so rapid tests can be allowed.

Public Health Advisory regarding COVID-19 Testing

Individuals with COVID symptoms who test negative with a rapid antigen test should isolate and either repeat an antigen test or get a PCR test in 24 to 48 hours if they continue to exhibit symptoms.

Massachusetts National Guard

An additional 500 National Guard members are being added to support the health system due to the omicron variant impacting staffing issues. The guard personnel will be deployed beginning the week of January 17 for non-clinical functions in high-volume emergency departments, public hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and dialysis centers.

When can you end quarantine or isolation?

There is a difference between quarantine and isolation. You should quarantine if you come into contact with someone who has coronavirus and you think you have it. You should isolate if you confirm you have coronavirus even if you don’t have symptoms.

The quarantine protocols recommend, but do not require, all exposed individuals get a test five days after exposure.  Exposed individuals do not need to quarantine in the following circumstances:

  • If fully vaccinated and not yet eligible to receive a booster OR
  • If fully vaccinated and have received their booster OR
  • If they had COVID and it is less than 90 days since they were diagnosed. Find more details.