| Chris Maza
BOSTON/WEST SPRINGFIELD – As part of an expanded coronavirus testing plan for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker announced on May 14 the establishment of additional drive-through testing sites, including one in West Springfield.
Mayor Will Reichelt confirmed the CVS Pharmacy located at 928 Riverdale St. is one of the company’s 10 locations statewide that began offering the tests. Patients must register in advance at CVS.com to schedule an appointment. CVS began accepting registrations on May 15.
West Springfield has been at the center of testing efforts in Hampden County, first with the opening of a testing site for first responders at the Eastern States Exposition in April, followed by rapid testing offered at AFC Urgent Care on Union Street later that month.
“This is the second urgent care type testing facility in West Springfield but the first using a drive-thru model,” said Reichelt. “I am pleased the community is able to receive this service and it makes sense locating here in West Springfield as we are such at an easy place to get to at the intersection of [Interstates] 90 and 91.”
Those meeting CDC and age guidelines administer a self-swab test provided through the pharmacy drive-thru window. A CVS employee will observe the self-swab process to ensure it is done properly. Once completed, the test will be sent to an independent lab for processing with results available in roughly three days.
“While the large-scale test sites we’ve been operating since early April have proven successful, this new approach allows us to utilize our presence in communities across the country and bring testing closer to home,” said Larry J. Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Health said in a company press release. “Our frontline employees will continue to play a critical role in the testing process, with members of their communities directly benefiting from their dedication and selflessness.”
Baker called CVS an “early partner in the Commonwealth’s work to expand testing.” The new Massachusetts sites are part of CVS’ nationwide testing expansion with a goal of having more than 1,000 locations across the country offering testing services by the end of May.
In Massachusetts, Baker said in spite of conducting 410,000 tests and being a top-5 testing site per capita as of May 14, labs have the ability to process more testing. “Massachusetts currently has the lab capacity to process about 30,000 tests per day and labs are continuing to utilize test processing for about 10 or 12,000 tests per day,” he said.
In addition to CVS testing locations, the state is expanding testing in community health centers with Quest Diagnostics providing 20,000 tests to such centers statewide.
Addressing long-term testing, Baker said the state intended to submit its strategy to the federal government in order to qualify for resources and funding to support those efforts.
“It will ensure that we can do even more, especially as we begin the reopening process, but many pieces of this will need to be signed off on and supported by the feds,” he said.
The commonwealth’s plan calls for boosting overall capacity to 45,000 tests per day, or 16 million tests per year, by the end of July and 75,000 tests per day, or more than 27 million tests per year, by the end of December. The plan also has guidance on increasing testing for those in professions in which workers come in regular contact with COVID-19 positive patients and those in high-risk congregate settings such state hospitals, group homes and correctional facilities. The state’s goal is to reduce the overall positive test rate to less than 5 percent. Baker also indicated his administration intends to increase lab processing capacities in anticipation of a testing surge this fall. There are also plans to improve turnaround times for test result processing with the intent of reducing wait times to a day or less.
While he said there would be support for randomized testing for “surveillance purposes,” universal testing would not take place as healthcare experts have stressed testing should be “strategically applied” to ensure the reliability of results and data.
“There’s no path currently to achieving what many refer to as universal testing, which has its own limitations and is frankly too far off to rely on for our reopening,” he said.