Coronavirus testing ramps up for public safety, medical personnel

Appointments are filling up quickly at a coronavirus testing site designated for public safety and medical personnel only.

SHREWSBURY — Appointments are filling up quickly at a coronavirus testing site designated for public safety and medical personnel only.

25 Investigates has been following the growing number of cases involving first responders.

And there’s a push to protect front-line workers in Massachusetts.

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A drive-through testing site in Shrewsbury opened last week and is now screening about 12O people every day.

The tents are set up in a CVS parking lot on Route 9 in Shrewsbury.

To be clear, testing here is for first responders and medical personnel only and you do need an appointment.

Appointments are filling up quickly.

One of the administrators of this site tells me they are already booking into the weekend.

At least five Massachusetts firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19. And 261 are in quarantine.

We don’t know the situation on the law enforcement side. Those numbers have not been made available to us.

State lawmakers are considering legislation to protect public health and public safety employees during the health crisis.

It would allow them to declare an on-the-job injury if they get sick or need to be quarantined because of the coronavirus.

In other words, they wouldn’t have to use sick or vacation time for days missed.

Billy Cabral has been a New Bedford firefighter for 27 years.

And he’s an executive with the state firefighter union.

“It’s the unknown,” Cabral said.

“Our newer members don’t have really have sick time. You earn fractionally as you go,” Cabral said. "Our job has inherent risks and we’re familiar with those risks and accept but something like this is different. You can’t see it it’s the unknown."

Right now, individual cities and towns get to decide if sick or vacation days are needed for first responders out sick because of the virus.

The proposed legislation would change that if it passes.

There was talk about expanding testing at this site in Shrewsbury to certain groups of people considered most vulnerable to virus.

But with so many first responders that need to be screened, the plan is to continue to keep it for first responders only.

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