Gov. Baker: Test Numbers Have Increased, Medical Facilities Will Expand

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Governor Charlie Baker has given an update on his administration's plans to expand the state's medical capacity, testing availability, and emergency childcare facilities during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a press conference on Saturday afternoon, Gov. Baker detailed the kind of work the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be doing to help in the state's response to COVID-19.

"Based on our conversations today with the Corps... [we] identified, along with several other folks, including people from the private sector, facilities that could possibly be either converted or modified to provide additional medical care capacity as we ramp up to deal with this virus."

Gov. Baker said the head of the coronavirus Command Center, Marylou Sudders, has been in "constant communication with the hospital community" to understand their needs going forward. Baker said the conversation has helped his Administration understand what structures may be necessary in order to prepare for a quick response to the spread of the virus.

Thanks to the collaborative efforts, Baker said his administration has already identified "a number of possible sites" to move forward with, and they have discussed "several other logistical components" with the Army Corps.

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Gov. Baker also said the state has made "some significant progress this week" when it comes to testing numbers.

"Over the past two days, the number of tests completed in a day in Massachusetts has nearly doubled from 520 on Wednesday to 962 yesterday." That's an 85 percent increase in the number of completed coronavirus tests for the state.

General testing capacity has also grown, according to Baker. "Testing capacity for the state labs and commercial labs was just under 700 on Wednesday. It increased to 1,144 as of Friday." That number represents and increase of almost 65 percent for the state's testing capacity over a period of 48 hours.

Baker said based on his own personal conversations, he expects commercial labs' capacity to test for COVID-19 will also continue to grow over the coming weeks.

"I want to remind folks as the testing numbers go up, and as the criteria by which you can be tested expands, we certainly expect that we'll see an increase in the number of positive test cases as well," Baker said.

The Governor also discussed the opening of the state's first privately-owned urgent care center to start drive-thru testing for the virus. "As we speak, the Waltham AFC Urgent Care location has cars with pre-screen patients waiting to be tested." Baker commended the owner, Dave Adams, a former Marine and local business leader, and the City of Waltham, for working together to get the facility opened so quickly.

Emergency child care options will also be expanded throughout the state starting this week. "We know that child care is an especially critical piece of emergency service, that allows our frontline workers to continue their battle against COVID-19 and to continue their work," Baker said. "Starting Monday we will open.... some selected sites to serve as emergency drop-in child care services for families with no other options."

Baker said the childcare options are meant to be used as a last resort by first responders, medical professionals, and critical service workers like grocery store employees.

"As of Friday, we have 300 sites ready to start operation on Monday," Baker said. "We expect more to come online eventually."

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