BOSTON (WHDH) - Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday announced that Massachusetts will distribute two million at-home rapid COVID-19 test kits as new virus cases continue to climb ahead of the holiday season.

The testing kits will be free of charge and they’ll first be given to the 102 communities with the highest estimated percentage of families below the poverty level. The initiative will eventually be expanded to every town and city in the state.

“Like vaccines, these rapid at-home tests are potentially a gamechanger,” Baker said during a news conference. “Like the arrival of booster shots, we’re providing our residents with an added layer of protection.”

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and the National Guard will be tasked with distributing the test kits, which can give a result in 15 minutes.

The state is also finalizing plans to allow municipalities to buy rapid tests directly from manufacturers at fixed, state-negotiated prices, according to Baker.

“This massive distribution effort and the long-term bulk purchasing agreement will make a real difference here in the state,” Baker said.

Baker noted that the state is bracing for a surge in new cases through the winter months.

“With the holidays approaching, we encourage residents to utilize rapid tests as a convenient way to keep family members and friends safe at gatherings,” Baker said.

Health officials reported more than 5,000 new cases on both Thursday and Friday, as well as 11,000 new breakthrough cases.

Baker added that he has no plans to bring back the statewide mask mandate because more than five million residents have been fully vaccinated against the virus.

“Unlike last year, those who were most at risk from getting seriously ill from COVID have protection from the virus,” Baker said.

More than 100 testing sites are also operational across the state.

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