Mass. hospitals to halt some procedures to free up COVID beds


BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts hospitals will soon put a temporary halt to in-patient elective surgeries that can safely be postponed, and the state will expand free testing throughout the state to help fight a rising tide of new coronavirus cases, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Monday.

“Massachusetts is now experiencing a rapid increase in new positive cases in the wake of Thanksgiving and, in turn, the number of people becoming ill and needing hospitalization is also increasing,” the Republican governor said at a news conference.

“We can’t afford to continue to strain the hospital system at this rate,” he added.

The temporary halt to elective surgeries will start Friday and the goal is to free up medical staff and beds, he said.

Ambulatory out-patient surgeries and procedures will be allowed to continue, state Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said.

Baker also announced a multi-faceted effort to expand the state’s testing capacity to 110,000 tests per week.

The plan includes expanded testing in western Massachusetts and on Cape Cod, where leaders have expressed frustration over a lack of testing capacity. More testing is coming to Amherst, Great Barrington, Greenfield, North Adams, and Pittsfield, the governor said.

The state has allocated more than $150 million for free COVID-19 testing, including surveillance testing programs in congregate settings and investments in laboratory capacity to process samples, according to the governor’s office.

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