Plan Includes Testing Partnership with Cambridge Health Alliance that Opens Free Testing to All Residents With and Without Symptoms
SOMERVILLE, MA – A new community-wide COVID-19 mitigation program for testing, tracking, contact tracing, and safe social isolation for Somerville residents was announced today by Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone, Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA) CEO Assaad Sayah, MD, and Doug Kress, of the Somerville Board of Health.
The multi-step plan is based first on broader access to free testing for any Somerville resident, both those with and without symptoms. To decrease further spread, the testing is then followed by contract tracing as well as ongoing follow-up and safe isolation support for those who test positive for COVID-19.
Curtatone was able to successfully advocate for a significant increase in local testing. Approximately 3,500 test kits are being provided by the State and administered by the Cambridge Health Alliance. Individuals seeking tests do not need to be symptomatic, do not need insurance or a doctor’s referral, and immigration status will not be checked. The only requirement is that individuals must be Somerville residents and MUST CALL to set up an appointment using a new hotline number at 1-617-665-2928.
“Expanding testing to a broader sample of the whole community, including tracking, tracing, and safe social isolation, are the only way we can begin to safely think about re-opening our communities and economy,” said Mayor Curtatone. “These first 3,500 tests are a good start, but you can be sure we will be advocating for more. No matter who you are or whether you have health coverage, you should have access to this kind of free testing.”
The testing program will roll out in three phases starting with drive-through testing at CHA’s Somerville Hospital location, followed by expansion to walking and bicycling clients, and then the opening of a satellite location in East Somerville. The location at the Crown Street parking lot adjacent to Somerville Hospital will be open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Amid a national shortage of COVID-19 tests, criteria for testing has generally been limited to the sickest patients with the most severe symptoms. By expanding testing more broadly, the joint City-CHA program aims to provide local officials with a better understanding of how widespread the virus could be in the community.
“Increased testing for COVID-19 is an essential step in determining the scope of this outbreak,” said Cambridge Health Alliance CEO Assaad Sayah, MD. “With the support of the Mass. Department of Public Health and Mayor Curtatone and the City of Somerville, we are excited to expand testing to all Somerville residents to help prevent further spread of the disease in our community.”
All persons tested will receive guidance on how to protect themselves and family members while test results are pending. This is available in multiple languages. For those who test positive, City Public Health nurses will reach out to conduct contact tracing and offer ongoing support as needed to residents to ensure they can recover safely. Those who need guidance, food, counseling, or supplies will be aided in accessing information and supports, such as the City’s emergency food pantry deliveries. Individuals who must isolate and need notes for employers will receive them from the Board of Health.
Those who cannot isolate safely at home after testing positive will be given the option to stay in at the Chelsea-Revere-MGH isolation hotel. Somerville has now officially joined that partnership, which includes transportation to the isolation hotel and meals as well as medical supervision by Mass General Hospital. Contacts identified by Somerville contact tracing efforts will be shared with the nonprofit Partners in Health, which will conduct further tracking of those who may have been exposed as part of their statewide tracking and tracing effort.
“Getting tested is just the first step to fighting this virus. What happens next is critical to ensure that we can identify and prevent further spread, ensure that those who are not sick enough to require hospitalization have the best chance for successful recovery, and that we reduce household transmission of the virus by helping persons with the virus to isolate safely,” said Doug Kress, Director of the Somerville Department of Health and Human Services.
Again, appointments are required for testing. Please call 617-665-2928 to request an appointment. Call Center hours are Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
For more information and regular COVID-19 updates, visit http://www.somervillema.gov/coronavirus and sign up for City alerts at http://www.somervillema.gov/Alerts. We urge you to sign up for every alert method you are able to receive: phone call, text, email. Also follow FB.com/SomervilleCity and @SomervilleCity.