The Enterprise, Brockton, Mass.
For months, hundreds of people have been visiting Massasoit Community College each week to receive a free COVID-19 test.
The site, run by Fallon Ambulance’s Transformative Healthcare, became a popular location for local residents because no appointment was required and testing turnaround times were often quick.
But those seeking testing at the Brockton campus as of last week weren’t able to receive one. The site was suddenly closed, with no explanation offered but a “Temporarily closed” note on the state’s Stop the Spread website.
Fallon Ambulance hasn’t responded to multiple requests for comment regarding the status of the site.
Mayor Robert Sullivan, at a school committee subcommittee meeting last week, said the city wasn’t initially notified about the temporary closure, but that he had learned it was because Fallon, Massasoit and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health couldn’t reach an agreement to continue with the site there.
The state Department of Public Health also hasn’t responded to a request for information.
Sullivan said it appeared at that time as though the city may need to help find a new location for the testing site.
There is additional free COVID-19 testing in Brockton through the Stop the Spread program offered by the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center outside Campanelli Stadium and at 63 Main St., where the health center is located, but by appointment only.
A spokesperson for Massasoit Community College said Wednesday that it “has been, and remains willing, to serve as a COVID testing site.”
“Although we are the host location, the college has no oversight over the logistics of the actual testing,” said Timothy Viall, the spokesperson. “As we understand it, Fallon has faced some logistical issues, including increasingly long waits and making the site operational in a cold weather environment. The last information we have from Fallon is that they are continuing to work on those issues and, once addressed, the site will reopen.”
Sullivan alsosaid Wednesday that he’s learned the testing site at Massasoit will be in operation again soon.
“Brockton has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and it is my top priority to keep the residents of our city safe and healthy. Unfortunately, Fallon faced some logistical issues adjusting to testing in winter months outside,” he said. “I have been assured by the commonwealth and Fallon that testing will resume at some point next week at the college.”
Sullivan expressed gratitude to Massasoit, Fallon and the state for working with Brockton to make the site possible.
“I also encourage residents to visit the other Stop the Spread testing site hosted by the Brockton Neighborhood Heath Center in the meantime,” he said.
Brockton’s COVID-19 numbers have been on the decline over the last week following post-Thanksgiving and Christmas surges that resulted in two-week case counts as high as around the height of the pandemic.
From Jan. 2 to 15, Brockton averaged 96 coronavirus cases among residents per day per 100,000 people. That was the third-highest average daily incidence rate over any two-week period in Brockton since the beginning of the pandemic.
That number, as of Thursday, is down to just under 80 cases from Jan. 10 to 23.
Dr. Richard Herman, the city’s pandemic consultant, said he doesn’t believe Brockton’s decline in cases is due to losing a testing site, but rather more consistent with a general decline in COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts.
“The number of tests has not fallen off dramatically,” he said. “We’re still seeing over a thousand cases a week being tested. So, people are finding places to get tested, even if it’s not at Massasoit. They might be going to Randolph, they might be going to (Brockton) Neighborhood Health Center or other Stop the Spread sites, hospital sites, urgent care, etc. I don’t think that the falloff is related to the loss of the testing site.”
Sullivan said it’s a priority of his to continue increasing COVID-19 testing in Brockton.
“It makes absolutely no common sense to not increase testing in municipalities that are being ravaged by COVID,” he said at the school committee meeting.
Enterprise senior reporter Cody Shepard can be reached by email at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @cshepard_ENT.
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