HANSON — Selectmen approved a proposal for a one-day SARS2-coronavirus testing event on Friday, May 22 at the former Maquan School.
The price is $65 per person, for which insurance reimbursement is mandatory by order of Gov. Charlie Baker. To sign up, visit https://www.bedfordresearch.org/product/hanson.
Ann Kiessling, director of the Bedford Research Foundation, and Town Moderator Sean Kealy, who has been on the BRF board of directors since 2007, made the proposal at the Tuesday, May 19 Board of Selectmen meeting.
“We’re able to offer this because of the governor’s task force,” Kiessling said. “In early March [it] got very involved with any [Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments] CLIA-licensed lab that could possibly begin to pick up this testing. This is not something that we were doing.”
She said BRF has been doing that type of test for HIV, and other illnesses, so it was an easy transition.
“I think this is a great opportunity for the community as long as there is appropriate certifications and credentials and that we have the signoffs from the [police and fire] chiefs,” said Selectman Matt Dyer.
Selectman Jim Hickey asked if the tests would be used for tracking, and Kiessling said it would be used that way for positive results.
“It’s all about the testing,” Kiessling said.
“Let’s do it,” Selectman Wes Blauss said.
Kiessling has been conducting the tests in her hometown of Bedford and has been working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the Mass. Department of Public Health, conducting tests for various hospitals and nursing homes.
“What she would like to do is expand her tests to individuals in towns to make sure people don’t have COVID-19 and, if they do and are asymptomatic, know to self-quarantine and stay away from people,” Kealy said.
He said the aim is to conduct a three- to three-and-a-half-hour event at the former Maquan School, and has spoken to Board of Health Chairman Arlene Dias about the proposal.
“We thought that, if we set up a tent outside of the Maquan School for a couple of hours people would register online ahead of time, get a number and a slot [for] when they could show up to be tested,” Kealy said. A nurse would be on site to order the tests and a BRF technician skilled at performing the tests.
The tests take only a few moments and people would wait in their vehicles until their number is called, the return to their vehicle after the test and depart.
“It’s remarkable how we can get people through,” Kiessling said. No paperwork is passed and there is nothing to sign.
Traffic should not be a problem due to the parking lot layout at Maquan and bathroom facilities would not be needed as people are given a time slot for the tests, which do not take very long, Kealy explained.
Kiessling said HIPPA privacy protocols are part of the federal CLIA licensing requirements to which BRF adheres.
“The only information that gets shared is with the DPH, they want to know everybody who tests positive,” Kiessling said. “As more and more testing sites open up, it’s possible that this sort of community approach may not be necessary … Bedford has discovered is once you start doing some kind of community and public testing, it raises awareness of the idea.”
More people then request tests, she said, revealing how many people may have it without knowing and can help flatten the curve of contagion.
Kiessling said that, at any given time, 1 to 2 percent of the population is infected and does not know it.
“This would be a great opportunity for our emergency responders to be tested, as well,” Kealy said, noting that it could become a weekly thing as is the case in Bedford.
Dias noted that first responders are currently sent to Foxboro for testing. She has spoke to Police Chief Michael Miksch about it, but Kealy said he has not had the opportunity to discuss it with Fire Chief Jerome Thompson Jr., as yet. Dias said Miksch indicated to her that he saw no potential traffic problems.
Selectman Kenny Mitchell initially questioned the need, pointing to testing sites in several area towns.
“The only way we’re going to get ahead of this thing is to get as many people tested as possible,” Kiessling said.
Dias added that physician referrals or employers — for essential employees — must make referrals for other testing sites.
Kealy said that BRF has a 24-hour turnaround on test results, followed up by a phone call for positive tests and a letter for people testing negative. Everyone is also mailed a follow-up letter with insurance forms.