Haverhill to get first drive-up COVID test site; focus is on students, teachers as schools reopen

Courtesy photoDr. Garrett Bomba of Pentucket Medical shows the location of what will be Haverhill's drive-up COVID-19 rapid testing facility in the downtown area. 

A drive-up COVID-19 testing site will open soon in downtown Haverhill to serve residents, with a focus on testing children as students return to school. 

Mayor James Fiorentini said the city is partnering with the local Pentucket Medical health organization and the Mass General Brigham hospital system to open the first coronavirus rapid results testing facility in Haverhill.

It will be set up in a parking lot between Pentucket Medical's main building at One Park Way and the police station on Bailey Boulevard, and is expected to be up and running by the end of the month, Fiorentini said. 

“We want as many of our teachers and students to be tested for COVID as is possible” the mayor said. “We are happy to partner with Pentucket Medical to make this rapid testing site available in our city. This gives Haverhill students and teachers another means of being rapidly tested.”

Haverhill public school students started their academic year last week remotely and headed back to schools on a staggered schedule starting this week. Most children will be back in buildings and learning according to their hybrid-based schedule — a mix of classroom and at-home online learning — by Oct. 15. Students who opted to learn through the Remote Learning Academy will do all learning online from home.

The new testing site will allow students and educators referred for a COVID test by their school nurse to be assessed at no cost to them, Fiorentini said. The school district's director of health and nursing services, Katie Vozeolas, is working with Pentucket Medical on operating the testing site and will be responsible for referring students and staff for testing when necessary.

Dr. Garrett Bomba, Pentucket Medical's chief physician executive and a member of Fiorentini's COVID-19 advisory panel, said the Haverhill testing site will see people by referral only and by appointment only. Testing costs will be covered by insurance, patients or the city. Hours are expected to be Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., with five to 10 patients seen per hour, Bomba said.

School pediatrician Dr. John Maddox, who also works at Pentucket Medical, said the city's new testing site is a big boost in the fight against coronavirus. 

"Having worked on the initial team at Pentucket Medical's Riverwalk COVID clinic (in Lawrence) last spring, I saw the need for easy access to accurate testing with rapid results here in Haverhill,” Maddox said. “This is important both for preventing COVID and also peace of mind.

“When you are ill or when you have been in close contact with someone positive, it's not a great time to have to scramble to find testing or to have to wait days for results,” Maddox added. “Even though many school children are asymptomatic or have only mild symptoms, we need testing to know what's happening — so we can effectively isolate affected individuals and prevent spread."

The city's Highway Department is cutting a second driveway into an existing parking lot to provide a traffic route into and out of the testing area, the mayor's office said. Eight to 10 parking spaces will be available for patients with prearranged testing appointments. 

According to the mayor's office, the testing facility will be a small office trailer housing medical staff that is parked in the grass on the side of the lot. Federal CARES Act money allocated to the city will cover the cost of a generator needed to power the office trailer. 

In addition to the new Haverhill site, local people can also get tested at Pentucket Medical's rapid testing center at Riverwalk in Lawrence or AFC Urgent Care in Methuen, the mayor's office said.

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