Springfield To Add COVID-19 Testing Site
COVID-19 testing capacity is being expanded in the largest city in western Massachusetts.
The city of Springfield is planning to open a COVID-19 testing site at the Putnam Vocational Technical High School. It will be for city residents who want to get tested whether they have symptoms or not, according to the city’s Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris.
"Right now, the only other testing site is at Eastfield Mall and there are long lines there and individuals waiting," said Caulton-Harris.
Since the testing site in the Eastfield Mall parking lot opened last fall as part of the state’s Stop The Spread initiative, more than 118 000 people have been tested there free of charge, according to Caulton-Harris.
Speaking Tuesday night at the first meeting of the City Council’s new COVID-19 Response Committee, Caulton-Harris said she also hopes to be able to offer free-of-charge testing at a site to be determined in the city’s predominantly Black low-income Mason Square neighborhood.
" Everybody does not have a car and the ability to make it to Eastfield Mall," said Caulton-Harris. " We want to make ( testing) as convenient as we can for those areas of high density."
Also, the New North Citizens Council has received funding to set up a neighborhood testing site at the Greek Cultural Center, according to Caulton-Harris.
Councilors applauded the additional testing capacity. Councilor Jesse Lederman, the chair of the COVID-19 Response Committee said a future meeting would focus on how the city plans to make COVID-19 vaccinations available in the Black and brown neighborhoods.
"We want to make sure there is a way for people to get (vaccinated) in their neighborhoods becaus it is so critical," said Lederman.
The committee Tuesday night also received reports from city officials on how municipal finances have been impacted during the pandemic and on the city’s efforts to provide financial assistance to small businesses and people at risk of eviction or foreclosure.
Revenue losses since the start of the pandemic is projected at $7.3 million, according to Lindsay Hackett the Deputy Chief Administrative and Finance Officer. The city received $20.3 million from the federal CARES Act for COVID-related expenses, but that money cannot be used for revenue shortfalls. She said the city has spent an additional $7 million to respond to the pandemic.
Using federal grant money the city has given a total of $4 million to hundreds of small businesses.
A $2 million fund was set up last summer to help people pay rent, mortgage and utility bills. $1.4 million has been paid out so far according to Gerry McCafferty, Director of the City’s Office of Housing.