The COVID-19 pandemic has hit some communities in Massachusetts harder than others, and access to testing hasn’t always been easy. Now, new mobile testing vans are hoping to change that.
“By meeting our patients where they are at, we’re able to work towards decreasing testing hesitancy,” said Dr. Priya Sarin Gupta, a physician at Mass General Hospital.
Mass General Brigham launched a fleet of community health vans this month in partnership with DPV Transportation, a transportation company based in Everett. They offer free, rapid COVID-19 testing, in addition to information and care kits with items to help stop the spread of the virus.
“A lot of these communities house essential workers and were hardest hit with the pandemic,” said Dr. Gupta.
The vans will be located in heavily trafficked areas in Chelsea, Revere, Everett, Lynn and Charlestown, at sites near food pantries, in proximity to schools and housing complexes, as well as in areas identified as hotspots by waste water surveillance, according to the hospital and physicians network.
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Van locations are chosen in partnership with local community organizations. On Saturday, one was parked at the Green Roots organization in Chelsea, where the group was handing out free meals and PPE.
“By just coming here and knowing that they are coming to a trusted community organization and then having this benefit is just like a bonus,” said Rosann Bongiovanni, the executive director of Green Roots.
The vans are used for testing but could someday be used as a model to get vaccines to these same neighborhoods.
“We certainly have all the infrastructure in place to do that and our hope is to one day be able to provide vaccines in this model,” said Dr. Gupta.
Appointments are walk-in only and free of charge. All members of the community are encouraged to visit, including anyone who is asymptomatic, and ID is not required for testing.
“We realized that we needed to take that care outside the brick and mortar operations and meet patients where they were at in the communities,” said Dr. Gupta.