BROCKTON, Mass. — Leaders in Brockton are using a baseball stadium to provide indoor COVID-19 tests to residents as part of the ‘Stop the Spread’ free testing initiative. The demand for tests has dropped in recent weeks and the city, as well as the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center, want people to come to the stadium and get tested if they are asymptomatic.
“This is going to be an unbelievable environment; it’s indoors, it’s heated, it’s accommodating, it’s professional,” said Mayor Robert Sullivan, a Democrat.
Brockton’s federal CARES Act funding was used for the $635,000 in roof repairs and other improvements for the indoor facility, according to a spokesman. Prior to this, testing was done in trailers outside of the center and, before that, outside at the high school. Winter weather has made testing more difficult.
“For all weather, to be safely testing as many people as we can, this site has just been a godsend,” said Sue Joss, the CEO of the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center, whose staff is managing testing.
Sullivan said roughly one in 10 people in Brockton have tested positive for COVID-19 in a city with significant problems with poverty. Vaccine access has been difficult for many in Brockton, Sullivan added.
“We don’t necessarily have a lot of people who have the capabilities to drive to Gillette Stadium,” Sullivan said.
In two weeks, the city and BNHC would like to move most vaccinations from various places primarily to the Shaw’s Center.
The testing and vaccinations would be done on separate sides of the center. Though final planning has not yet been put in place, the entrances are next to each other. There is talk of potentially staggering days, so vaccinations and testing would not be done concurrently, or possibly adding plexiglass dividers in addition to the air purifiers and industrial fans already in use.
Vaccinations in Brockton are currently being done at congregate care settings, inside the health center, and new mobile testing at senior housing complexes, according to Maria Celli, the Chief Operating Officer at the BNHC.
The low vaccine supply remains a problem across the commonwealth and nation, but Joss said she feels strongly the state will begin to use neighborhood health centers to a greater degree in the week ahead to help communities like Brockton.
“I think there’s a recognition by the state that communities of color such as ours need to be prioritized,” Joss said.
By Tuesday, February 9, health officials expect to know how soon vaccinations will be set up at the Shaw’s Center, according to Celli.
Hours of operation for Shaw’s Center testing is scheduled for Mondays 12 p.m. – 7 p.m., Wednesdays 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., and Thursdays 12 p.m. – 7 p.m.
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