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Baker expects to see quicker time for COVID-19 test results

Baker: Test turnaround time will improve
During a visit to the Lynn Salvation Army facility, Governor Baker said the state is working with national platforms to increase COVID-19 test turnaround time. (Photo: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Pool, Video: Handout)

Governor Charlie Baker said Wednesday that he expects to see a faster turnaround time for COVID-19 tests in Massachusetts during the coming weeks.

Baker made the comments during his daily briefing following a tour of a Lynn Salvation Army facility.

“The vast majority of the tests in Massachusetts are turned around in 24 to 48 hours,” Baker said. “We’ve been in many conversations with some of the larger national platforms about test turnaround time. And I do believe within the next several weeks we should see some improvements with respect to their turnaround times.”

Baker, citing the current low statewide positive test rate, said the issue would be more pressing if the rate was higher.

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“If we were a state where our positive test rate was in the 20s or the 30s, I’d be out of my mind,” Baker said. “But the fact, again, that people have done so many of the right things to help us get our positive test rate down to 1.5 percent, while the turnaround delays are frustrating, annoying and incredibly difficult for people who are waiting to get the answer, they are a little less dangerous than they might be if we had much higher positive test rates.”

Baker also praised the Salvation Army for its efforts to distribute meals amid the pandemic.

“Since March, which is basically 150 days ago, this location has distributed 1.8 million meals,” Baker said. “Statewide, 150 days, Salvation Army has distributed 8 million meals. I can’t go anywhere in Massachusetts that has something to do with food without seeing these food boxes somewhere in the warehouse, the store room, the front room, of every organization that’s working to make sure the people of Massachusetts have enough to eat during these incredibly difficult times.”

Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito also discussed food aid programs during the briefing.

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In a follow-up statement, the Baker administration said the first round of grants totaling nearly $3 million from the new $36 million Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program, created following recommendations from the state COVID-19 Command Center’s Food Security Task Force, had been distributed to groups tackling food insecurity in Massachusetts.

Baker’s office also announced the first round of new vendors for the Healthy Incentives Program, funded through $5 million in additional funds recommended by the Food Security Task Force, the statement said.

According to Baker’s office, 39 new vendors were selected based on their ability to respond to the needs of populations hit hardest by the pandemic, including communities of color and older adults, among other factors.

“During this pandemic, Massachusetts’ food supply chain has faced significant challenges and there is an urgent need for food security to support our most vulnerable residents,” Baker said in the statement. “This new funding is a $3 million investment in the infrastructure we need to continue to respond to the impacts of the pandemic, while creating a system that provides more equitable access to nutritious, local food in the Commonwealth.”

His words were echoed by Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito.

“Increasing food security and the resiliency of our food system is essential to protecting public health and local jobs,” Polito said in the statement. “Our Administration’s new grant program will help ensure the Commonwealth’s farmers, fishermen, food banks, and other food businesses can continue contributing to our economy and connect fresh, local food with Massachusetts residents.”

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Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.