Boston launches major expansion of covid-19 testing


In this next phase of testing expansion, the City is aiming to reach an average of at least 1,500 diagnostic tests per day to residents

Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced that his Administration is moving forward with a rapid expansion of COVID-19 testing, building on his continued commitment to ensure equitable access to testing for Boston residents. In this next phase of testing expansion, the City of Boston is aiming to reach an average of at least 1,500 diagnostic tests per day to residents, targeting efforts in each neighborhood, while prioritizing populations most vulnerable to the severe impacts of COVID-19. The City has been working continuously to increase testing in Boston and currently an average of 1,100 tests are conducted per day of Boston residents across all available testing sites, up from an average of 680 tests conducted per day the previous week.

"Testing helps people get the care they need and avoid passing the virus on to others," said Mayor Walsh. "Increasing our testing efforts allows our public health experts to better track the outbreak and it will continue to be essential in our progress toward recovery. Public health models tell us that the more testing we can do, the more we can reduce our positive infection rate, giving us the data and confidence we need to move forward safely."

As part of the expansion, the City will work to expand the current testing infrastructure that exists to increase the number of community health centers offering testing and increasing their testing capacity by 50 percent in the next month. In addition, the City will partner with two hospitals to expand community-based testing over the next month.

Mobile testing

The City will expand mobile testing capacity in Boston with a targeted goal of testing an average of 150 residents a day, operating six days per week. Mobile testing will help fill any gaps in testing availability, prioritizing neighborhoods and populations that need dedicated testing efforts to create equitable access to testing. 

Surveillance testing for targeted populations

As part of the ongoing work to make testing available for groups at risk of faster spread and more severe illness from COVID-19, the City will work to complete universal testing for individuals experiencing homelessness and then begin universal testing for other high-impact populations and sites, including first responders.

Additionally, the City of Boston is moving forward with universal COVID-19 testing for all unhoused individuals in Boston. The City recently secured 1,000 tests donated by the Boston company Orig3n. As testing is completed, individuals who are positive will get the care and support they need to recover. Individuals who are negative will be placed in designated areas to allow for better social distancing and help slow the spread of the virus.

Antibody testing

As the City ramps up testing, a large-scale antibody testing initiative is underway to help better understand the spread of COVID-19 in Boston, which will help inform the path to recovery. The City is working with Massachusetts General Hospital to test 1,000 asymptomatic Boston residents for both the COVID-19 virus and COVID-19 antibodies. The data and collective results are expected to be available next week. Following this study, the City is looking to expand antibody testing to more Bostonians including targeted populations such as first responders.

The City of Boston has been partnering with community health centers to increase access to testing, particularly in neighborhoods experiencing higher rates of COVID-19. This week, the number of tests among Boston residents increased by 44 percent from the previous week, according to the latest data from the Boston Public Health Commission. There have been close to 28,000 COVID-19 tests in Boston residents, accounting for about 4 percent of the City's population. Out of the total number of tests, the percentage of those who tested positive went down from almost 34 percent to 32 percent in the last week.

Testing among East Boston residents increased by 76 percent during the last week and had a lower percent positive of positive tests compared to previous data, but still had the highest percentage positive among all neighborhoods. Mattapan, Roxbury, West Roxbury and Hyde Park experienced the largest decreases in percent positives comparing the past week with previous data. The latest numbers of cases by Boston neighborhoods are available here.

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