BRAINTREE, Mass. — You can say this about the state’s Covid-19 Child Care testing site at South Shore Plaza: You might wait hours in line, but food, bathrooms, and shopping are just a parking lot away.
Those amenities came in handy for Joanna Hanus of Whitman. She, her husband, and two children had been sitting in the drive-up queue for about three hours Tuesday when one of the boys became — what else? — hungry. But that’s why God made Target — and plunked one down just across the asphalt from the line of simmering vehicles.
Hanus said her children got exposed to Covid at daycare.
“Usually where we get tested, it’s like maybe two or three cars in front of us,” she said. “Right now it’s like forty or something like that.”
And those forty seemed frozen in place — inching along, ever-so-slightly, towards the promised land of a temporary metal hut emblazoned with a banner reading Visit Healthcare. That’s the name of the company hired by the state’s Division of Early Education & Care, to run eight testing sites dedicated to the childcare industry.
Braintree, Swanseas, and Tewksbury are open six days a week. The other five — located in Athol, Sturbridge, Franklin, Plymouth, and Westfield — have variable schedules.
Recent social media posts suggest visitors to at least the Franklin site also experience, as they do in Braintree, wasted days and wasted gallons of gas: long wait times that require families to plan ahead.
Posts on Facebook included:
“I was at the Franklin site on Saturday and it took me over four hours to get through to testing.”
“…Fill your car up on gas… pack snacks…”
“Bring a stroller, portable potty… maybe adult beverages. See if you can find a clown. (I’m not kidding.)”
In Braintree, Ekaterina Mikhalev and her daughter were nearing the end of a four-hour wait to get tested.
“We actually got here before it opened,” Mikhalev said. “We got here at 9:30 or so. There are only a few of these centers and you can’t get a test at Walgreen’s until next Monday.”
That’s a problem, she said, because her daughter wants to get back to school sooner than that. As for how they passed the time in line, she credits Walt Disney.
Heather, a daycare provider from Brockton, was just behind Mikhalev. One of the children in her school came down with Covid. Though she was vaccinated, boosted and felt fine, Heather wound up spending hours in line waiting to get tested.
“Actually, I think it would be a little faster if they had like two people up there working,” she said. “But I think there’s only one person up there working.”
There were actually three Visit Healthcare employees onsite — but, in fact, just one was doing all the swabbing.
The huge demand put on testing sites prompted Governor Baker Tuesday to urge increased use of Rapid Antigen Tests when the goal is to ‘clear’ employees or students for return to work or school. The Governor said the state purchased 26 million rapid test kits that will be distributed over the next three months to K-12 schools but also to early education providers.
That should help ease pressure on the Braintree testing site where right now, police are forced to turn vehicles away three hours before the facility actually closes because demand is so high.
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