The South End Community Health Center (SECHC) has set up a mobile testing site in the Blackstone School driveway in the South End – starting drive-up and walk-up testing at the site last week.
The Center’s Medical Director, Dr. Glennon O’Grady, said the set-up has been ideal and will likely be in place for a while as they try to help ramp up the city’s overall testing capabilities.
“The site is perfect,” he said. “We can do drive-in or walk-up patient screening. It really has been a great place for it. We opened up last week for everyone who wants to get tested. We do want people to register first, though. Our numbers have significantly increased as we’ve gone along and that’s the idea.”
The testing is done with a swab and detects active virus in the system of a patient. It is done in conjunction with a Quest Labs, and most patients can get a result in about 24 hours, he said.
“We rolled it out with a slow start – testing about 35 a day last week,” he said. “We feel like we have the ability to get to 50 a day pretty easily if there is demand. Right now, it’s a question of people wanting to be there or not. We have enough testing supplies. This is going to be a long-term process. I don’t know if we’ll be able to stay here is school resumes in the fall. At least now through the summer we plan to be doing things at the Blackstone.”
Right now, anyone who wants to be tested is directed to call the Health Center directly to register. They will be given a time to go to the test site, and the test will be performed in a matter of minutes. Patients can either drive-through or walk in. The slow start was on purpose, he said, to work out glitches that might arise, but things rolled out rather smoothly.
“People are seeing quickly that it’s an easy test,” he said. “It’s a little uncomfortable…, but it’s an easy test. We don’t have people waiting a long tie. We don’t want people congregating and we want to keep people six feet apart…Our goal is to get the patients their result the next day.”
Testing is a tricky process, as there can be false negatives that can happen due to the timing of a test. Sometimes people can get tested and receive a negative result, but then a further test a day or so later presents a positive test.
However, O’Grady said the majority go the other way.
“For most people who have this issue it is the other way and they get tested after they are symptomatic and are positive,” he said. “That can go on for about a month after symptoms have resolved. At that point, they’re probably not infected. We tell them they are positive because the virus particles are still in the body, but the virus is not.”
Other issues can be an incomplete or inadequate sample on the swab, which can happen as the test is a bit uncomfortable.
Part of the funding for the site comes from the Boston Resiliency Fund, which provided large grants to health centers to increase community-based testing. The grant, O’Grady said, has helped to increase testing capacity and fund start-up costs for PPE and the tent at the site.
There is no need to have insurance to be tested, and there are strict instructions provided if someone tests positive – including a quarantine.
“They must quarantine for 14 days or until they are asymptomatic,” he said. “People should not be going out and it’s really a two-week window.”
The test site is open Monday to Friday, 1:30-4:30 p.m., but hours could increase if there is enough demand.