BOSTON (WHDH) - Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday announced that Massachusetts will soon start testing asymptomatic people for COVID-19 in eight hard-hit communities in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.

The new “Stop the Spread” initiative is a data-driven effort to reduce the prevalence of COVID-19 in communities that are above the state average in total cases and positive test rate, and have experienced a decline in testing levels since April, Baker said during a news conference at the State House.

The initiative is being launched in Chelsea, Everett, Fall River, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, Marlborough, and New Bedford.

“While the Commonwealth has made progress on reducing the overall positive test rate, there are still communities where the number of positive tests is above the average of the rest of the state,” Baker said. “Focusing our efforts to increase testing in these communities will help identify new cases and stop the spread. Residents of these communities, even those who are asymptomatic, are urged to take advantage of these new sites.”

Testing will be provided free of charge from July 10 through August 14.

“During this time, we will continue to evaluate the impact of this initiative and will also continue to closely monitor other communities,” Baker said. “If there is evidence of a positive increase in other communities, we’ll look into expanding the initiative.”

The population of the cities in which the testing will be conducted make up about 9 percent of the Commonwealth’s population but have seen 27 percent of the positive tests in the last two weeks, according to Baker.

The statewide positive test rate over the past two weeks is about 2 percent but in these eight communities, 8 percent of tests have been positive, Baker added. Despite the continued elevated spread, total testing in the communities has declined 39 percent since the end of April, and the total cases as a percentage of the population have nearly doubled the state average.

Baker also reminded residents who test positive for COVID-19 to answer their phone when they are contacted by the Community Tracing Collaborative or their local board of health.

“By boosting testing in these communities, we can more effectively drive contact tracing efforts,” Baker said. “This will enable people who test positive to appropriately isolate with support.”

There were 140 new coronavirus cases and 15 additional deaths reported on Tuesday, bringing the state’s total case count to 104,799 and death toll to 7,998.

For details on testing locations and hours of operation, visit Mass.gov/stopthespread.

Click here for more coronavirus coverage.

(Copyright (c) 2021 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Join our Newsletter for the latest news right to your inbox