Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced a new coronavirus testing initiative for eight communities that have seen high rates of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.
The communities included are Chelsea, Everett, Fall River, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, Marlborough and New Bedford. New testing sites will be opened and mobile testing vans will be deployed beginning Friday.
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"We've made a lot of progress in fighting COVID-19," Baker said. "However, not all communities have experienced the same rate of decline. That's why today we're announcing the 'Stop the Spread' testing initiative."
Baker said the eight communities were selected based on elevated cases in those cities, higher rates over spread over the past two weeks, high positive test rates over the past two weeks and declining test volume since the end of April.
The governor said the testing will continue for the next several weeks, ending on Aug. 14. If data shows evidence of increases in other communities, he said they will look to expand testing in those areas as well.
"The goal is to provide widespread asymptomatic testing in easy to access locations," Baker said. "Increased testing here will help identify new cases and help stop community transmission... We look forward to seeing how this program will support people in these communities that continue to be hit hard by the virus."
Those who wish to get tested can go to mass.gov/stopthespread to find out where testing is available.
Baker said Tuesday that public health data "continues to show us positive trends on many of the key metrics" and that the state's reopening is only made possible by people who have adhered to mitigation strategies like wearing a mask and maintaining six feet or more of distance from others.
"It's now more important than ever, especially as we get into Phase 3, that everybody continue to do the things that have made such a difference here in Massachusetts over the course of the past 120 days. That means continuing to wear masks if you can't socially distance, to socially distance whenever possible, to practice good hygiene and to stay home if you feel sick," he said.
Another 15 people with the new coronavirus have died and 201 new confirmed and probable cases were reported, health officials said Tuesday.
Closely watched metrics like how coronavirus tests are coming back positive and the average number of patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, in the hospital remain roughly 90% lower than where they stood at the height of the virus' surge in Massachusetts in mid-April.
The state's death toll stands at 8,213 and the number of COVID-19 cases detected at 108,854, including confirmed and probable cases in both metrics, according to the Department of Public Health's daily report.
With the exception of Boston and Somerville, Massachusetts is now in Phase 3, the final step in its reopening plan before the so-called "new normal" is reached, when a vaccine or effective treatment will allow all COVID-19 restrictions to be eased. The state has been slowly reopening for months, monitoring for any outbreaks that would risk the progress made so far.
Gyms, fitness studios, movie theaters, museums, casinos and outdoor venues are among the industries included in the first step of the Phase 3 reopening, which started Monday.
State House News Service contributed to this report.