As thousands continue to protest racial injustice in Massachusetts, pop-up sites open across the state Wednesday in a push from Gov. Charlie Baker to test demonstrators for coronavirus.
"We certainly support people’s rights to express their views peacefully," Baker said earlier this week. "But we need to keep up our fight and slow the spread of COVID-19 here in Massachusetts.”
Over 50 sites throughout Massachusetts will test people for free on Wednesday, June 17 and Thursday, June 18. The Baker Administration is urging anyone who has attended a protest in the past two weeks to get tested for coronavirus at one of these sites.
Results will be given to people confidentially and participants are encouraged to share them with their doctors.
Testing site locations include UMass Memorial Medical Center, MGH Chelsea, Brigham Health-Brookside Community Center, Cambridge Health Alliance, Lawrence General Hospital and various CVS locations. A full list of all testing sites is available at www.mass.gov/gettested.
"Today we're booked for 350 people at this site alone. In Malden it's 400 and Somerville it's another 350 so at the end of today at each site we'll probably do over one thousand people," Tonya Scott of Cambridge Health Alliance said Wednesday.
Those who show up to get tested do not have to have symptoms of coronavirus, officials said.
"We explain they're kind of contact tracing. They're trying to find out where people are positive, where have you been? If you are asymptomatic," explained Carla Gonsalves of Cambridge Health Alliance.
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Several people from Jamaica Plain who went to a recent demonstration in Franklin Park said they welcomed the opportunity to get tested.
"I think I would have done it anyway because I think it's important for everyone to get tested if they can but, yes, because of the protest I definitely wanted to," Sarah Jenkins of Jamaica Plain said.
"It's definitely my responsibility to do that," added Asher Kaplan of Jamaica Plain. "Like, my parents were a little concerned that if I were going to a protest I'd have to be careful and this was my deal. I knew it was important to protest but the flip side of that is I needed to make sure I got tested because that's the only way it's going to work out."
Not everyone who showed up to testing sites on Wednesday was there because they went to a protest, however.
"We're getting a new roommate, a fourth roommate so it seemed safe to get him tested, get us tested, clear everything out," said Alex Ezorsky of Somerville.
State officials continue to urge people to maintain social distance, wear face coverings, wash hands and use disinfectant frequently to mitigate further spread of the virus, which can spread easily and quickly in large groups of people who are in close contact. Some people do not have symptoms but may have the virus and could spread the virus to others, including family members.
To date, Massachusetts has tested more than 719,000 people for COVID-19. On average, 10,000 individuals are tested each day, comprising 4.4% of the state’s population each month. The state currently has capacity at 45 labs to perform up to 30,000 COVID-19 tests per day, and its nursing home testing strategies have been replicated by states across the country.