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GETTING TESTED AT LYNN’S PROJECT BEACON SITE

BY GUTHRIE SCRIMGEOUR| January 12, 2021

LYNN — The first time I tried to register for a COVID-19 test at the new Project Beacon site, I encountered the following message:

“Due to extremely high demand, all test sites may be fully booked. Check back here regularly for openings.”

When I scrolled down to the Lynn site at 398 Blossom St., I saw this message:

“No upcoming times are currently available for this location.”

My first thought, like that of many who struggled to register for a test, was that it was strange that a site that can apparently test up to 2,000 people a day would not have any appointments available.

The drive-through testing site, which will remain open through at least March 31, replaced many of the free testing sites that are currently operating in the city, but will actually expand Lynn’s testing capacity, according to Mayor Thomas M. McGee.

As part of the state’s “Stop the Spread” campaign, Lynn was one of four Massachusetts communities selected to operate a regional express testing center. The new site is run by Project Beacon, a company that specializes in high-volume, appointment-only testing and currently operates an express site in Revere.

The site is still ramping up to full capacity, but is projected to eventually be able to test up to 2,000 people a day, regardless of their residence, health insurance or symptoms.

The site hit a snag last Friday, when a diesel fuel leak from a generator shut down some of the testing bays.

The new Project Beacon site replaced “Stop the Spread” testing sites located at Lynn English High School and behind the Lynn Fire Department headquarters on Western Avenue, but walk-up testing is still available at Lynn Community Health Center.

City Councilor-at-Large Brian M. Field reported that many Lynn residents had experienced the sorts of registration problems that I encountered — he also ran into the same difficulties when he was seeking a test.

“It’s certainly frustrating when you’re trying to get an appointment and it keeps telling you that there are no appointments,” said Field. “I wondered if I was doing something wrong or if there was something wrong with the site.”

Field was eventually able to contact a senior official, who explained the reasoning behind the scheduling issues.

“She explains that they release appointments periodically,” said Field. “So, it doesn’t all of a sudden fill up, especially for people who need the appointments. That’s what they’ve noticed from other testing sites, and apparently you live and you learn.”

The key, according to Field, was to book the appointment in the early evening or in the morning.

“They release them in the evening, and they save some for the morning in case people get sick overnight — they’re still able to get an appointment,” said Field.

When I tried again the next morning, new time slots had apparently been released, and I was able to schedule a test.

After booking, Project Beacon sent me a text message reminding me about the time and location.

I arrived at the site, located in the parking lot off the Lynnway once used for the former Lynn-Boston ferry, about 10 minutes before my appointment to find approximately 20 cars parked in two lines, waiting to enter a large testing tent.

The lines were quick and efficient. While at other sites, it took hours to get a test, here, the entire process was completed in less than 10 minutes.

Employees verified my date of birth and scanned a QR code that Project Beacon had provided before handing me my test, a self-administered nasal swab.

The swab was more painless than the brain-scraping nasopharyngeal swabs I’ve received at other sites.

Now, like the hundreds of others tested at the site each day, I’m hoping for a negative result.

The Lynn Public Health Department has confirmed the number of active, confirmed positive COVID-19 cases is 2,116, with 132 new cases reported on Tuesday. A total of 10,609 Lynn residents have recovered and 166 have died. The total number of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in Lynn since March 21, 2020, including those who have died and recovered, is 12,891, according to city data.

Anyone seeking an appointment can register at the Project Beacon website: app.beacontesting.com.