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Though cases rise, Curative closing Greenfield, South Deerfield PCR testing sites

  • 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. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • PCR testing is offered at Greenfield Community College’s East Building, pictured. STAFF FILE PHOTO/MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer
Published: 12/18/2022 5:19:28 PM
Modified: 12/18/2022 5:18:52 PM

Editor’s note: The Greenfield Recorder has been providing regular updates on the risk level of COVID-19 transmission as wastewater testing results are received.

While COVID-19 transmission rates are on the rise in the midst of the holiday season, Franklin County’s remaining PCR testing sites operated by Curative Inc. are scheduled to close on Dec. 28.

For the second week in a row, the COVID-19 transmission risk is considered “high” in the four communities involved in the Contact Tracing Collaborative, which consists of Greenfield, Deerfield, Montague and Sunderland. Greenfield Health Director Jennifer Hoffman noted that officials are “seeing the spike from Thanksgiving.”

Meanwhile, the PCR testing sites at Greenfield Community College and South County Senior Center are expected to close their doors on Wednesday, Dec. 28, according to Hoffman. Both sites are operated by Curative Inc., which also closed its location at Greenfield Cooperative Bank in Shelburne Falls on Nov. 22.

“They didn’t give us any notice,” Hoffman said Friday afternoon in regards to the Greenfield testing site, which has been operated by the Los Angeles-based health care startup since May.

Deerfield Board of Health Chair Carolyn Shores Ness said she’s known for about a month that the South Deerfield site’s doors would be closing soon, at least in part because the town hadn’t budgeted to heat the building through the winter months.

“There are less than 10 tests a day sometimes,” she said of the testing site’s demand. “We were doing 25 and 35 for a while there, but it’s really petered out.”

Shores Ness said that at the time, she assumed resources would be consolidated to GCC. Hoffman, however, received confirmation on Friday that the Greenfield site, too, would be closing.

In a statement, a Curative spokesperson said the last of its PCR testing sites, which are located in 40 states across the U.S., will close by Dec. 28.

“Curative’s initial goal was always to work our way out of the COVID-19 services business by helping the country manage through and emerge safely from the pandemic,” the statement reads. “Curative is now focusing on other challenges in the health care industry, moving into the next phase of the company with the recent launch of our new health plan.”

The news of these closures, however, comes as the region sees an increase in a variety of respiratory illnesses.

According to Hoffman, there were nine cluster infections (of three or more people at one site) across the Contact Tracing Collaborative’s four communities last week, compared to nine the previous week. Meanwhile, case incidence and percent positivity continued to rise.

As a result, the four municipalities are now in the red zone with a “high” risk of COVID-19 transmission. Masking is recommended.

Notably, cases of flu are doubling daily, Hoffman said. In the past week, schools in Greenfield have seen 256 cases of flu and RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, as well as COVID-19.

“This is exactly what happens every year around this time,” she said. “The numbers are probably going to go up and up and up.”

Shores Ness emphasized the benefit of the flu vaccine for those who haven’t already received one for this year.

“An incredible number of people are ill — it’s not just COVID,” she said. “We have so much flu and RSV, and other cold-related viruses are making the rounds.”

Acknowledging the holiday season ahead, Shores Ness asked the community to be “as cautious as possible.”

“I understand it’s the holidays and people are going to get together,” she said, “but if people would think about the last two years of the pandemic and try to be careful and wear masks in public spaces, and be mindful of any relatives that are immunocompromised, it would be wonderful.”

At-home tests for COVID-19, as well as tests for flu and RSV, can be requested online at bit.ly/3j97BhY. Tests are covered by insurance.

In combination with wastewater testing — people with an active COVID-19 infection excrete the virus in their stool, and samples from wastewater treatment plants can be analyzed to estimate community virus levels — the four municipalities factor in hospitalization numbers, positivity rates and case numbers to determine risk levels. Health officials also continue to talk with nursing homes, businesses and schools to track cluster infections.

The following three zones, defined by the Contact Tracing Collaborative, are used to gauge risk levels of COVID-19 transmission in the four communities. For the risk level in the area to change, at least two measures need to apply.

Red zone: High COVID-19 risk

Masking recommended.

■Cluster infections (of three or more people at one site): five or more.

■Percent positive tests out of total tests performed: greater than 10%.

■Hospitalizations: five or more.

■Increase in case trend.

■Increase in wastewater trend.

Yellow zone: Moderate COVID-19 risk

Masking encouraged.

■One to four cluster infections.

■Stable positive testing.

■Fewer than five hospitalizations.

■Stable case incidence.

■Stable wastewater.

Green zone: Low to minimal COVID-19 risk

Masking optional.

■No cluster infections.

■Decrease in positive tests.

■Decrease in hospitalizations.

■Decrease in case incidence.

■Decreased virus copies in wastewater.


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