With breakthrough infections on the rise, the demand for coronavirus testing is back up across Massachusetts. Several sites are expanding their testing hours as they start to see lines form for the first time in months.
At Prince Hall Lodge in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood, Harvard Street Neighborhood Healthcare has started offering testing twice a week at its vaccination site. The organization attributes the demand to more people gathering and clusters being reported in places like Provincetown, where more than 250 people have tested positive.
"I think with the delta variant and other variants, people are being more cautious," said Pauline Gill, the site's director. "They want to know and they want to be safe."
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Elaine Maddox and her husband came to get tested Wednesday after attending a large funeral in Florida. They are both fully vaccinated.
"There was no social distancing, and I'm worried. We are seniors and we don't want to get it," she said.
After a corner seemed to have been turned in the battle against COVID-19, many people are starting to experience anxiety that the fall and winter could be a repeat of last year.
"I don't think anybody wants to go back to that," said Ginny Carelli of Oxford. "It was really tough."
"I'm personally vaccinated, my family's vaccinated, so I was really hoping that would be a couple of nice steps in a good direction," college student Cassie Bute said.
"My wife and I are both school teachers, so we're really concerned about what it's going to be like in late August," said Vincent Ramirez of Auburn. "You know, do we have to mask up?"
Dr. Michael Misialek, the associate chair of pathology at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, said he expects testing to play a key role in the fight against the virus until more people are vaccinated.
"That population of unvaccinated people serves as a reservoir that keeps this pandemic going," Misialek said.
"I can certainly understand how people could be feeling frustrated and disappointed, or even angry, that we're still here, that we're not through it," said Dr. Natalie Dattilo, a psychologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital.
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Dattilo said it’s important to recognize those feelings are very valid and not to let them overwhelm you.
The virus undoubtedly "had an impact on our mental health this year that was unprecedented," said Dattilo. "And it's likely that some of that will be ongoing for the foreseeable future."
Misialek recommended vaccinated individuals get tested if they have symptoms or if they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive.
The most important thing to remember, Dattilo said, is we're not in the same place we were a year ago, even though it may be starting to feel similar.
"While there's still ongoing uncertainty, and it's the uncertainty that can cause anxiety," she said, "we're in a better position to plan and prepare for the fall and winter than we were a year ago."
Dattilo said that staying connected to others — whether in person or virtually — will remain an important part of navigating whatever the future holds.
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