an at home covid test box and components laid out on a table

The state will receive a supply of 26 million COVID-19 rapid antigen tests over the next three months.

The Baker-Polito administration this morning announced that it has placed an order with iHealth to supply the state with 26 million COVID-19 rapid antigen tests over the next three months.

The tests will be prioritized to support K-12 schools and child care settings.

At a press event, Gov. Charlie Baker said the tests will arrive on a rolling basis, and the timing and shipment amounts will vary depending on international shipping and production variables.

The administration also released a public health advisory today about when to seek tests for COVID-19. Residents are advised to seek COVID-19 tests when exhibiting COVID symptoms, or five days following a known close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID pursuant to Department of Public Health quarantine and isolation protocols, updated on Dec. 29 in accordance with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CDC isolation protocols do not require a COVID-19 test to exit isolation after having COVID. This general rule also applies to child care and K-12.

The Department of Early Education and Care has posted additional information on testing protocols for specific situations in child care, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education updated its Protocols for Responding to COVID-19 Scenarios in K-12 public schools on Dec. 30.

The new quarantine protocols recommend, but do not require, all exposed individuals get a test five days after exposure. Exposed individuals do not need to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated and not yet eligible to receive a booster, or if they are fully vaccinated and have received their booster, or if they had COVID and it is less than 90 days since they were diagnosed.

The DPH advises that a positive COVID-19 rapid antigen does not need to be confirmed with a PCR test.

The DPH recommends that individuals who have COVID symptoms and 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. The DPH does not advise employers, or schools and child care, to require a test as a condition of returning to work or school.

Baker also announced that he has activated 500 additional members of the Massachusetts National Guard to support the state’s health care system. This expands on the activation of 500 members announced on Dec. 21 to support non-clinical functions in the Commonwealth’s hospitals. Prioritized uses for the newly activated 500 members will be to provide additional non-clinical staffing at community hospitals and high-volume emergency departments, public hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and dialysis centers. These guard personnel will be deployed beginning the week of Jan. 17.