By CBSBoston.com Staff

BOSTON (CBS) – Massachusetts has secured 26 million rapid antigen COVID-19 tests that will be distributed over the next three months, Gov. Charlie Baker announced on Tuesday.

The state will prioritize K-12 schools and child care facilities as it distributes the tests into March, Baker said.

“There’s no question at this point in time that staffing remains an enormous challenge for many of these providers. This activation will alleviate some of the pressure in those places,” the governor told reporters at a news conference at the State House.

“We’re planning to ensure that we have sufficient supply to keep schools open through the school calendar year as well as for early education and care,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders.

Baker said the tests, which were secured from iHealth, will begin arriving in rolling shipments this week. He said the timing and size of the shipments will depend on international shipping and production.

“Rapid tests are convenient and efficient. They can be completed at home with results in just 15 minutes. They are also accurate in detecting when someone is about to infect others,” Baker said.

The governor called rapid tests are “a very good alternative” to a PCR test.

The Department of Public Health also issued an advisory on when people should get a COVID test, saying they should get tested when they’re displaying symptoms or a confirmed close contact of someone with COVID. The agency does not recommend people take a PCR test as confirmation that they should end isolation.

“We do not believe – DPH does not believe – by the way, the CDC and the federal government don’t believe either, that you need a PCR test to go back to work, to back to school, or back to child care,” Baker said. “We believe the antigen tests, which are enormously accurate especially on the back end of contagion, are a perfectly suitable solution.”

In a move to make rapid tests more accessible, the federal government is now allowing Americans with private health insurance to ask for reimbursement for them beginning Saturday. However, any tests bought before January 15 will not qualify.

Baker will also testify about COVID-19 testing Tuesday afternoon when he meets the Joint Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management Hearing.

CBSBoston.com Staff