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PCR testing site opens in South Deerfield, while Greenfield’s site is closing

  • Deerfield Health Director Alex White gets tested on Monday at the new PCR testing site located in the South County Senior Center. STAFF PHOTO/MARY BYRNE

  • Deerfield Health Director Alex White administers a PCR test on Monday at the new testing site located in the South County Senior Center. STAFF PHOTO/MARY BYRNE

  • Will Agron and Maria Sanabria, working for the nationwide health care company Curative, run the COVID-19 testing site in the South County Senior Center in South Deerfield on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The South County Senior Center building in South Deerfield is being used as a COVID-19 testing site. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 3/7/2022 5:03:42 PM

DEERFIELD— As the Stop the Spread COVID-19 testing site in Greenfield begins to ramp down its operations, another site is just getting started.

Located in the rear of the South County Senior Center at 67 North Main St. in South Deerfield, the nationwide health care company Curative is offering free PCR tests on both an appointment and walk-in basis for all Franklin County residents.

As of about 10:15 a.m. on Monday, eight people had already booked appointments — including Deerfield Health Director Alex White.

“With the partnership we have here, we’re able to provide this opportunity for individuals who like to have that reassurance,” White said.

The site is expected to be temporary, White said, but in the event of a future surge in cases, the town “would be prepared” to offer testing. Speaking to more immediate need, he said the availability of the testing site may ease the minds of parents, as masks become optional in the Frontier Regional and Union 38 school districts next week. He also noted that proof of a negative PCR test is still required for some airline travel.

“(PCR) is the gold standard approach … compared to the antigen at-home tests,” White noted.

The site in Deerfield opens just weeks before the Stop the Spread site in Greenfield, located at Greenfield Community College (GCC), is due to close on April 1, according to Gov. Charlie Baker’s office. Since the start of Stop the Spread in July 2020, the testing program has provided more than 4 million tests at 41 locations.

According to the governor’s office, many of the state’s Stop the Spread sites have seen a significant decline in volume over the last few months. After April 1, only 11 Stop the Spread testing sites will remain open, with the closest being in Springfield.

“It’s been a great resource for Greenfield and Franklin County,” Greenfield Health Director Jennifer Hoffman said of the Stop the Spread site.

Hoffman attributed the declining volume, and therefore closure of several sites, to the increasing availability of at-home test kits.

“If there was a need for (the site), the state would keep it,” she said. “But the numbers have dropped over 80% (in volume) — a significant drop from just two weeks ago. I think it’s the availability of home test kits that are making people not get PCRs.”

Municipalities that will transition from state-sponsored testing locations will receive an allocation of rapid tests based on testing volumes recorded over two weeks in February. Greenfield is expected to receive 5,220 tests, according to state officials.

Although Hoffman is not sure yet on how those at-home test kits will be distributed, she noted the Greenfield Health Department is still giving out kits from the state’s last allocation of test kits to 102 municipalities with the highest percentage of families below the poverty level.

“We’ve been giving them out to families as they’ve called and needed them,” she said.

For anyone looking for a PCR test, Hoffman emphasized they are still available at various pharmacies and doctor’s offices — and now, the new site in South Deerfield.

“We collaborate closely with Deerfield,” Hoffman noted. “They are a great resource, and if anyone needs tests, they could absolutely go to Deerfield.”

Mayor Roxann Wedegartner said she was disappointed to learn last week that the Greenfield Stop the Spread site, which opened in January 2021, was on the list of expected closures next month.

“The nice thing about the GCC center … is that it’s convenient,” she said, noting it was especially important the city had it available during the surge in COVID-19 cases in January. “I think it was extremely well-run … and it was very convenient for not just the citizens of Greenfield, but for anyone coming in from (Interstate) 91 or Route 2. If we have this option in Deerfield, that’s great — and thank you to the town of Deerfield.”

The Deerfield site comes at no cost to the town or residents as Curative is reimbursed by the insurance companies for tests — Deerfield Board of Health Chair Carolyn Shores Ness previously emphasized that people without insurance will still be able to get a test with no issue. The town providing the South County Senior Center as a free space for the company to set up its materials allows Curative to get operations “set up sooner and working sooner.”

The site’s closing date has been left “open-ended,” and Shores Ness estimates the site will remain open at least through the spring. In other communities, Curative implements a minimum test requirement for the site to remain in operation, but in South Deerfield, Shores Ness said there is no minimum.

The testing site at the South County Senior Center is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Appointments can be made online at book.curative.com/sites/34744.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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