REVERE, Mass. — They once offered sci-fi shock value, but COVID-19 testing sites are now just part of the landscape. And these days, they are mainly characterized by one thing: crowds.
Such was the case at Revere High School, where the ‘Stop the Spread’ initiative set up a special Sunday morning testing session primarily targeting those who may not have restricted their Thanksgiving celebrations to immediate family.
Hundreds showed up, including John Kim and his family from Melrose, who shared the holiday with six people.
“We see them regularly. But still it just felt like the right thing to do,” Kim said.
For weeks, health authorities preached that the right thing to do this Thanksgiving was to keep gatherings confined to household members. But it was clear from highway traffic and TSA checkpoint reports that many Americans decided, for whatever reason, to do otherwise.
Some doctors worry that will translate into a wave of post-holiday infections that could overwhelm some hospitals.
“The reality is we are expecting to see a surge post-holiday,” said Dr. George Abraham, chief of medicine at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester.
“We’re all concerned that, just like what happened in Thanksgiving in Canada, the same thing is going to happen in the United States and we’ll see an increase in cases,” added Dr. Paul Sax, an infectious disease specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Post-holiday infection surges have been seen before in Massachusetts. Three weeks after Labor Day, COVID-19 cases rose about 6% in the state. Three weeks after Halloween, Mass. saw a much sharper, 28% rise.
Those holidays, however, can’t touch Thanksgiving when it comes to the broadly dangerous conditions conducive for viral transmission: large numbers of individual gatherings, many close contacts and temperatures cold enough to keep everyone indoors.
For some at the Revere site, testing has become somewhat of a routine.
Michael Jalowick barely winces when the cotton swab is introduced into his nostrils. Sunday morning was his third COVID-19 test, this one precautionary.
“I’m an older guy and I have preexisting conditions and I just want to make sure,” he said.
Others were first-time testers.
Karin Hsaini of Revere was also looking for some reassurance, but of a different kind. While he said Thanksgiving was an immediate-family affair, his wife was suddenly not feeling well.
“She’s feeling some like headache, some stuff. So we need to make sure we don’t have it,” Hsaini said.
Those getting tested were told they would know results in one to three days, which would be an extraordinary improvement over the wait times some have endured in recent weeks.
So many Americans elected to get tested before Thanksgiving that labs processing the tests became overwhelmed, leaving some to wait a week or more before finding out their status. That’s an especially dangerous situation for those positive but asymptomatic if they are not quarantined while waiting for results.
By noon, the Revere site was forced to turn a couple of vehicles away. But it will reopen Monday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
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