Pooled testing at schools for the coronavirus — while pushing the feds for more vaccine doses — is the path to the “next normal,” Gov. Charlie Baker said while touring a Newburyport school.

“To get to the point where this thing is really starting to rock and roll is a real pleasure, I think, for all of us who were looking to find a relatively uncomplicated way for schools to implement a weekly surveillance program, and you folks were one of the first in line,” Baker early Friday.

He praised Newburyport’s pooled testing program and said about 950 Bay State schools are administering weekly pooled coronavirus tests to about 300,000 faculty, students and staff. He urged others to come see how it’s being put to use.

“This is how we create and build the next normal,” Baker said, adding it’s vital to keep kids “engaged, growing and learning.”

Education Commissioner Jeff Riley said 159 school districts, out of a total of 400, have rolled out pooled testing. “We really want people to invest … and give another layer of protection,” he said.

When asked about moving teachers up in the line for vaccinations, Baker said it’s all coming down to supply limitations from the feds. But, he added, more doses from both Moderna and Pfizer are expected in March. And, the FDA is poised to grant Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine an emergency use declaration.

Baker’s remarks came a day after the state’s vaxfinder website was giving users more headaches.



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