‘Testing desert’: Residents concerned with not having easy access to state-run test sites in Mass.


ATTLEBORO, Mass. (WPRI) —This week, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced he would expand state-run testing capacity in places across Massachusetts.

One region that is lacking easy access to coronavirus testing is just over the state line from Rhode Island. There’s a so-called “testing desert” in communities like Attleboro and Seekonk, which is concerning to them with Rhode Island being identified as having the most cases per capita in the country.

The state testing program Baker is launching is called “Stop the Spread” and it offers free testing to all Massachusetts residents. In a map, there are blue hearts representing privately run sites, and purple hearts representing state run sites.

The map shows that there are no testing sites in the entire area of Attleboro, Foxboro and Seekonk. The closest sites for them to go to are in Fall River or New Bedford, which were added when those cities were considered to be at highest risk of spread.

Officials have repeatedly stressed the importance of testing so positive cases can be identified and isolated, but that’s a challenge.

“The virus doesn’t know borders, right? It doesn’t know any town boundaries,” Sen. Paul Feeney said. “The bottom line is a lot of the people that I represent in the communities in my district, especially the southern half, they go to doctors appointments in Rhode Island. They go shopping in Rhode Island.”

In Attleboro there are about 45,000 residents and 1,700 currently have COVID-19.

“The number of people who are going to catch this from Rhode Island and also the number of people here who will give it back to people in Rhode Island, it’s concerning,” Attleboro Mayor Paul Heroux said. “That’s why we really do need to have some sort of testing site.”

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