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Lynn to help ‘Stop the Spread’ of coronavirus — for free

By Gayla Cawley

LYNN — Lynn is one of eight hard-hit communities that will offer free COVID-19 testing sites over the next month as part of the state’s “Stop the Spread” initiative. 

The Baker-Polito administration announced the new targeted coronavirus testing on Wednesday, which will be available in Lynn, Chelsea, Everett, Fall River, Lawrence, Lowell, Marlborough and New Bedford from Friday, July 10 to Aug. 14. 

While the sites are being launched in those targeted communities, they are open to all Massachusetts residents. 

The new testing is part of the “Stop the Spread” initiative, a data-driven effort that aims to reduce the prevalence of COVID-19 in communities that are above the state average in total cases and positive test rates and have experienced a decline in testing since April. 

In Lynn, testing will be offered seven days a week through the Lynn Community Health Center in the Element Care parking lot, 9 Buffum St, and on Fridays through the Healthy Streets Outreach Program, which will have a testing van set up in the parking lot at 100 Willow St./Liberty Street. 

Lynn Community Health Center will have an additional testing site at its satellite location, 29 Market Square, from Monday through Thursday.  

“We’re seeing much fewer cases but still a higher level than the state overall,” said David Schaffner, director of COVID-19 testing and treatment at Lynn Community Health Center. “We were definitely eager to take part. Anything we can do to increase testing, we want to do.”  

Schaffner said the seven-day positive rate at LCHC is down to five to six percent, from 20-plus percent throughout May, but that rate is still about triple the state average, which he said is about 1.8 to 1.9 percent.

“While the Commonwealth has made progress on reducing the overall positive test rate, there are still communities where the number of positive tests is above the average of the rest of the state,” Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement. “Focusing our efforts to increase testing in these communities will help identify new cases and stop the spread. Residents of these communities, even those who are asymptomatic, are urged to take advantage of these new sites.”

The population of the eight cities in which the free testing will be conducted makes up approximately 9 percent of the state’s population, but have seen about 27 percent of the state’s positive tests in the past two weeks, according to the Baker-Polito administration.  

While the statewide positive rate is about 2 percent, eight percent of tests have been positive in those eight communities over the past two weeks. 

In Lynn, the overall positive rate over the past two weeks is 4.81 percent and with 3,709 cases, the city has the fourth highest number of cases in the state, according to the state Department of Public Health. 

Schaffner said the new initiative won’t alter their approach, as LCHC had already been providing free coronavirus testing, but it will provide them with a financial benefit. 

The state will reimburse the LCHC for testing patients who do not qualify for COVID-19 testing through their insurance or are uninsured, he said. 

“It’s nice to see the state is putting some attention on these hard-hit communities,” said Schaffner. “Certainly, there were times when Lynn Community Health Center was (at a) 40 percent positive (rate). We really want to get broad surveillance testing for the entire Lynn community. They should call us up and get a test.”  

To make an appointment for testing through Lynn Community Health Center, call (781) 581-3900. Walk-in appointments are also available.