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Local state representative calls for free rapid COVID-19 tests

State Rep. Tami Gouveia, D-Acton, at the Acton Health Department and Senior Center. She’s been giving out K-95 masks to constituents during the Covid-19 pandemic and done other work on public health. (SUN/Julia Malakie)
State Rep. Tami Gouveia, D-Acton, at the Acton Health Department and Senior Center. She’s been giving out K-95 masks to constituents during the Covid-19 pandemic and done other work on public health. (SUN/Julia Malakie)
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ACTON – As the Delta variant spreads and schools and college campuses reopen to students and faculty, Rep. Tami Gouveia sent a letter last week to Gov. Charlie Baker urging him to use federal and state funding to make rapid antigen testing for COVID-19 free and accessible to residents.

Gouveia, an Acton Democrat who is running for lieutenant governor, penned an open letter signed by 250 legislators, public health experts and residents, supporting improved access to rapid testing as a way to control the transmission of COVID-19.

PCR testing is considered the gold standard for COVID-19 detection, but it requires the use of lab equipment and trained personnel to administer, and results can take days.

Gouveia said numerous studies, including ones conducted by the Department of Public Health, have “demonstrated the effectiveness of rapid antigen tests in being able to identify those who have high viral loads, even if they are not experiencing any symptoms.”

Furthermore, she said the tests are less expensive and produce results within minutes, allowing them to be used effectively at home or at school.

“This means that individuals do not have to quarantine unnecessarily while waiting for a PCR test and that for those who do test positive for COVID-19, they are able to quickly take informed action to protect others from exposure,” Gouveia wrote.

The letter was signed by a mix of policymakers, business owners and physicians, including Dr. Michael Mina, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, and Dr. Michael Misialek, associate chair of pathology at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.

“While rapid antigen tests are available in retail stores and may soon be available through some Boards of Health, this patchwork and privatized response to the current public health crisis leaves far too many of our low-income and immigrant families, children, essential workers, and residents of color without adequate testing and protections from the spread of COVID-19,” the letter stated.

Gouveia, who has a doctorate in public health, encouraged Baker to make the tests available at places like schools, train and bus stations, grocery stores, pharmacies, libraries and faith-based organizations. She also recommended a mail-home option, an approach she said some European countries have adopted.

Gouveia represents the 14th Middlesex District, which besides precincts in Acton also includes precincts in Chelmsford plus Carlisle and Concord.