As Governor Charlie Baker announced an initiative to expand COVID-19 testing at Community Health Centers throughout the state last Wednesday, East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) President and CEO Manny Lopes was front and center at the Governor’s daily COVID-19 briefing.
Last week EBNHC began offering COVID-19 testing seven days a week to any community residents who have flu-like symptoms or have been in contact with someone who is COVID-19 positive.
The announcement last week will expand this effort in partnership with Quest Diagnostics and the Mass League of Community Health Centers.
Baker said in rolling out increased testing, community health centers in areas of high need, like Eastie, that have the ability to increase their testing capacities will be prioritized.
Since Friday, Quest has sent over 2,255 kits to EBNHC and other community health centers in Boston and Brockton. Quest Diagnostics has committed to ship an additional 5,000 COVID-19 test kits to EBNHC and 11 other community health centers in Boston, Brockton, Lowell, Quincy, Fall River, Provincetown, and Worcester.
“I’ve heard the Governor mention many times when we are in a crisis like this it is a team sport,:” said Lopes at Last Wednesday’s briefing. “On behalf of the Mass Community Health Centers we are grateful for the support we have received from Governor Baker. For over 50 years community health centers in Massachusetts have been providing high quality, accessible care to anyone that walks through our doors. We have been working hard to close the healthcare gap. Now, we are on the frontlines of COVID-19 testing, tracing and treatment.”
Lopes said community health centers provide an additional line of defense to keep patients out of larger hospitals and help avoid overburdening the healthcare system.
Lopes said currently, EBNHC, is servicing two of the most impacted neighborhoods in the Commonwealth–East Boston and Chelsea.
“Many patients are essential workers that work in supermarkets, restaurants, and healthcare facilities,” said Lopes. “Sadly, many of these residents can not afford the high cost of housing and live in crowded apartments with multiple families. So what has been an American Dream for some has become an American Nightmare for others as this virus continues to spread in the community.”
Lopes said EBNHC’s response to COVID-19 has been extensive, wide reaching and hyper-local.
“We have been focused on education, testing and, as the Governor mentioned, part of this unique (statewide) collaborative to conduct contact tracing,” said Lopes. “At EBNHC we are now open for testing 7 days a week. Like many health centers in Boston, with the support of Mayor (Martin) Walsh we have modified our operations to offer multiple settings for testing.”
Testing includes a walk-through location at 79 Paris Street from 8 a.m. to noon daily; a drive through location at Suffolk Downs, 525 William F. McClellan Highway from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. daily; and at EBNHC’s emergency department (open 24 hours) at 10 Gove Street for those experiencing influenza-like illness.
“This partnership with Quest Diagnostics will help us increase our testing capabilities in the community to over 500 individuals per day,” said Lopes. “So far we have tested over 3,000 individuals and as we all know testing will be critical in the well being of our residents. Testing leads to detections and allows us to keep sick individuals at home and reduce exposure in our community and reduce the spread of the virus. Having this reliable supply of test kits will allow us to test more individuals and the most at risk.”