Framingham Health Director: Walsh Testing Site Has Capacity Issues

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Report was updated at 10:45 a.m. with a statement from MetroWest Medical Center

FRAMINGHAM – For the seventh week in a row, the City of Framingham was designated a red community or high-risk community for the spread of the coronavirus.

On August 26, Framingham was listed at 8.7 cases per day, per 100,000 people over a 14 days period. 8.0 is the number for a red community. Yesterday, Framingham was at 17.9 cases per day per 100,000 people.

The City has doubled it’s number in the last 7 weeks, but yet people are turned away from the free COVID-19 testing site due to capacity issues regularly.

Mayor Yvonne Spicer’s administration said it has no written plan to combat the spread of the virus last week.

There are three free COVID testing sites in the City, which were identified by the Spicer Administration. The State pays the cost for operating them with Fallon Ambulance. The biggest testing site is Walsh Middle School, which is open Mondays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. But there are issues with the site.

Despite averaging about 300 tests per day, the site has repeatedly been shut down early to avoid vehicles waiting on brook Street and backing up traffic, and residents complain the wait for a test can be hours.

“The issue with the Walsh testing site is the capacity.  It is quite a bit smaller than Staples and Keefe, and Fallon has not been able to send more staff to increase the throughput enough to move the line faster,” said Framingham Health Director Sam Wong to SOURCE Thursday morning.

Police Department “needs to close the entry periodically to prevent cars from backing onto Brook Street.  We have asked both Fallon and the state to increase staffing.  We are also exploring the possibility, including staffing capacity both locally and with Fallon, for an additional drive-through site,” said Wong.

Framingham also has two walk-up testing sites.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, there is a walk-up site at Amazing Things Arts Center on Hollis Street from 3 to 6 p.m. Wong said it averages about 125 to 150 tests daily.

On Mondays, Wednesday, & Friday, SMOC HQ is hosting a testing site from 3 to 6 p.m. There is limited parking. Wong said it averages about 200 tests per day.

Framingham residents can also go to free testing sites in Marlborough, which include Marlborough Hospital and AFC Marlborough, which schedules appointment times, and no lines.

MetroWest Medical Center in Framingham, said through its spokesperson it has not been asked by the state to be a free COVID testing site.

The previous drive-thru testing sites at Keefe Tech and Staples are no longer available, said Wong.

The health director said Keefe Tech needed the parking lot back as classes have begun. That operation ended in August,

Wong said Staples needed its site back, and it closed in September.

I asked Dr. Wong if there were plans to add another drive-thru free testing site or extend the testing hours at Walsh.

Wong said the Framingham High is not available as there is staff and the district’s highest-needs students on site.

He said other school sites are not an option for the same reason, due to highest-needs students on campus.

Wong said he would love to add a second-drive-thru site, but finding one has been difficult.

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