Five million free COVID-19 tests will soon be available to Massachusetts residents, including 1.5 million earmarked for food banks in the state, Governor Charlie Baker’s administration announced Wednesday.
The Executive Office of Health and Human Services said municipalities can request free tests — as well as essential personal protective equipment such as KN95, surgical, and children’s masks — through Sept. 16. The tests and equipment are expected to arrive by the middle of October, the agency said in a statement.
The announcement comes as the Biden administration last week paused its program that delivers free at-home COVID-19 tests to US households, citing a lack of funding.
The number of tests allocated to municipalities will be based on population size, the agency said. The tests marked for food banks are in addition to 1.5 million tests already distributed to food banks this year.
“Testing is one critical tool for managing COVID-19, rather than COVID managing us, and we remain committed to ensuring that all Massachusetts residents have access to free tests,” Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders said in the statement.
“Taking an at-home test is part of the steps that individuals can take – including staying up to date on vaccines, staying home when sick, and wearing masks as needed – to protect themselves and reduce the spread of COVID-19.”
Last spring, the state distributed 2 million at-home COVID-19 tests to cities and towns across the state. Baker’s office said the state has distributed more than 25 million rapid antigen tests since December 2021.
“This distribution of COVID-19 rapid antigen tests builds on our work over the past several years to partner with municipalities to ensure residents can protect themselves from the virus,” Baker said in the statement. “Rapid tests, along with other resources like vaccines, boosters and treatments, provide residents with the tools they need to manage COVID-19.”
More than 84 percent of eligible Massachusetts residents are fully vaccinated, and more than half of adults have had boosters, according to the office of health and human services.
State health officials urged residents to stay up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines and get tested if you have symptoms of the virus.
On Tuesday, officials in the Biden administration were celebrating the approval of updated booster shots that target the two most prevalent Omicron subvariants, and saying the country is entering a new phase of the pandemic where most people will only need one COVID-19 shot annually.
Material from previous Globe stories was used in this report.