Baker warns against large Thanksgiving gatherings

Massachusetts

BOSTON (AP/WPRI) — Gov. Charlie Baker is urging residents to refrain from celebrating with extended family and friends during the Thanksgiving holiday, saying casual indoor gatherings are helping fuel the new surge in cases in Massachusetts.

In-person holiday festivities should be limited to members of an individual’s immediate household, Baker said.

On Wednesday, the Mass. Department of Public Health reported 2,744 newly confirmed cases and an additional 47 COVID-19-related deaths.

Full breakdown of today’s COVID-19 data (Mass.gov) »

In the meantime, state education officials are rolling out a new program that would let schools rapidly test students and teachers who may be showing symptoms of COVID-19.

Under the program, if a student starts showing any symptoms of illness, they can be given the test which produces a result in about 15 minutes.

As the state’s case count continues to rise, Baker said it’s more difficult for health care workers to pinpoint where people are contracting the virus.

When asked Tuesday whether digital contact tracing would be made available to residents, he said it’s unlikely that will be an option in the foreseeable future because of the trust and privacy issues that surround it.

Health officials are finding that people are concerned about the government targeting and tagging them based on the location of their phone, according to Baker.

“The privacy issues associated with this separate and apart from the trust question are ones that we don’t believe have been adequately addressed by any of the platforms that we have talked to,” he said.

As for testing, the governor said they have to operate under federal guidelines in terms of how many testing sites they set up, but he added that in the coming weeks, there may be new products offering alternatives to waiting in long lines for coronavirus tests.

On Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowed the emergency use of the first rapid coronavirus test that can be administered entirely at home.

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