Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic more than two months ago East Boston has emerged as one of Boston’s ‘hotspots’. The virus rapidly spread through the densely populated neighborhood infecting over 1,000 residents since mid-March. Other surrounding communitites like Chelsea and Revere also had become a virus hot spot.
The team at East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) has been on the frontlines fighting the pandemic in East Boston and rapidly changing and adapting their approach as each week passes.
One of the biggest tools to combat the virus has been to increase testing for as many residents as possible.
According to EBNHC Vice President Michael Mancusi testing leads to quick identification of cases, quick treatment for those people and immediate isolation to prevent spread. Early testing also helps to identify anyone who came into contact with infected people so they too can be quickly treated.
Mancusi said EBNHC is now able to test anyone who wants to be tested for COVID-19 in the communities of East Boston, Winthrop, Revere, Chelsea and Everett–even if you do not have symptoms, or if you are not an EBNHC patient.
“We started testing back on March 28 by testing first responders,” said Mancusi. “Then we opened the testing to EBNHC patients and now we are opening up testing to non-patients of the Health Center. We are really hoping to increase broad testing in our service areas of East Boston, Chelsea, Withrop, Revere and Everett.”
Mancusi said the steps to get a free COVID-19 test at one of three EBNHC testing sites is easy and hassle free.
“All someone has to do is call 617-569-5800 to pre-register whether they are symptomatic or asymptomatic,” said Mancusi. “And the testing sites are open 7 days a week.”
The easiest way to get testing is arguably at EBNHC’s Suffolk Downs ‘drive-thru’ testing site at 525 William F. McClellan Highway after pre-registering.
“This site is open daily from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.,” said Mancusi. “Once you are registered you simply drive up to check in. The staff will print a label that we put on your windshield. Then you drive up to the testing tent and get tested. It is a very streamlined and quick process that takes only a few minutes by our experienced staff.”
Mancusi said the Health Center had a day last week where they tested 149 people at Suffolk Downs.
“We are averaging 80 to 100 people per day with the numbers being a little lower on the weekends,” said Mancusi.
However, Mancusi said the Health Center wants to give residents as many opportunities as possible to get tested.
“For those who do not have a car we have set up a ‘walk-through’ testing site 79 Paris Street,” said Mancusi.
This site is open daily from 8 a.m. to noon and residents can pre-register through the same phone number (617-569-5800).
“Paris Street is the same as Suffolk Downs with the only difference being it is a walk-through testing site,” said Mancusi. “This process also moves quickly and we’ve been testing over 100 people a day at Paris Street.”
All together EBNHC is approaching 8,500 or so individuals tested for COVID-19 in the area with a goal of reaching 10,000 people tested over the next week or two.
“East Boston was identified as a ‘hotspot’ so we really wanted to do our part during this public health crisis,” said Mancusi. “We absolutely wanted to increase the testing across the communities we serve because the more testing that gets down the more we can do to manage community suppression.”
Mancusi said the third testing site is for residents with COVID-19-like symptoms at EBNHC’s Emergency Department Influenza Like Illness Clinic at 10 Gove Street.
Once tested Mancusi said patients should receive test results in 4 to 5 days or less but should quarantine in their home pending the results. Results will automatically be reported to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Boston Public Health Commission.
“If your results are positive, a health care provider from EBNHC will call you to discuss your results and give further guidance,” said Mancusi. “Being positive brings up all kinds of issues and questions for people. We provide a hand out at all the testing sites. If someone is positive we have an entire support network to help with housing, food insecurities or other issues people may face. So there’s a solid plan in place to help people navigate the most proper care for their condition.”
Mancusi said the Health Center is also exploring more testing options like ‘mobile-testing’.
“Through mobile testing we can target areas that haven’t had a level of robust testing yet,” said Mancusi. “There may be certain areas, for whatever reason, where the number of residents tested is very low. Using geo mapping tools we can look at the data and pinpoint places or a population in these ‘cold-zones’ that should have barrier-free testing.”
Mancusi reminds residents that all are welcome at EBNHC’s testing sites regardless of immigration status, insurance status, or ability to pay. You will not receive a bill for COVID-19 testing or treatment. Visit www.ebnhc.org for COVID-19 information and community resources.