| G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – Having more test kits available locally is seen as a key part in the fight against spreading the coronavirus.
Both State Rep. Carlos Gonzalez and Mayor Domenic Sarno made separate appeals for additional testing last week.
Gonzalez has called for “community-based testing in high density neighborhoods and to provide free testing to all essential workers, home health care workers and nursing home staff at community-based testing centers.”
He has asked Mercy Medical Center and Baystate Health Center to provide free testing. Those medical centers, though, must get additional tests.
Gonzalez told Reminder Publishing he has appealed to Gov. Charlie Baker to consider community-based testing. Ideally, Gonzalez said he would want a mobile unit that could go, for instance, into the senior high-rise apartments in the city.
He expressed great concerns that essential workers in retail stores until recently were not given protective items such as mask and gloves.
In a written statement he said, “Many low-wage workers employed in supermarkets, at restaurants, as healthcare workers and other essential service workers primarily reside in our high-density neighborhoods and should be allowed to be tested and traced if necessary, to avoid the spread.”
Gonzalez is the chair of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, whose members are supporting the effort.
Gonzalez noted the zip codes of 01103, 01105, and 01107 – all in the inner city – have high incidences of people testing positive for the virus. These communities are considered low income and Gonzalez noted these neighborhoods already have health disparities including more difficult access to health foods.
He would like to see a diverse task force established to provide more effective communication about testing in these areas.
More available tests is a major reason that will allow the re-opening of Springfield and Sarno and Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris have asked for more test units.
Sarno said in a written statement, “Following the President’s plan to Governors about reopening our country and economy and in consultation with my HHS Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris, we are currently nowhere close to being ready to reopen. Like everyone else, I’d like to reopen yesterday, but there is still a dramatic need for testing kits. We have one shot to get this thing right in order to build strong public, business, consumer and hospital confidences, that we can identify, isolate, mitigate, contact trace and just as important, heal potential hot spot areas and individuals. Again, Helen and I call on federal and state government sources to step up their efforts to get our city of Springfield 50,000 testing kits (roughly one-third of our city population) in order to do target testing. This is a balancing act, but we must work together, not only locally, but also regionally with other states too. It might take a little bit longer to reopen, but done right, full confidence to get back to a sense of normalcy will be long lived – not short lived.”