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Lines For 'Blocks And Blocks': Mass. Coronavirus Testing Sites See Sky-High Demand01:58
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The start of the long line at DotHouse Health on Wednesday afternoon for coronavirus tests. (Carey Goldberg/WBUR)
The start of the long line at DotHouse Health on Wednesday afternoon for coronavirus tests. (Carey Goldberg/WBUR)

It’s noon on Wednesday at DotHouse Health, a community health center in Dorchester, and more than two dozen people are lined up for coronavirus testing that won't even start until 1 p.m.

Maria Papadopoulos, the center's director of clinical operations, walks down the line explaining to people that the system has changed: They will now get a card with a specific time slot on it, so they don’t have to wait in line.

"Our lines have been incredibly long and they’ve been waiting for like five or six hours," she says. "And it’s cold. So we created these time slots so people can leave and come back for their time of testing."

In the run up to Thanksgiving, more Massachusetts residents have been seeking coronavirus tests, and lines have lengthened at testing sites around the state — including DotHouse Health. Some reports suggest demand for tests rose to at least triple its usual levels. The director of the Board of Health in Lawrence, Mike Armano, says daily testing has risen from about 200 to over 900 there.

A man gets a test at the East Boston Community Health Center COVID-19 testing station at Central Square Park on Wednesday afternoon. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
A man gets a test at the East Boston Community Health Center COVID-19 testing station at Central Square Park on Wednesday afternoon. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Papadopoulos says the demand has been through the roof like this for about two weeks, and she doesn't think it's only because of Thanksgiving.

"I think it’s the surge," she says. "I think it’s the mayor saying, 'Go get tested.' The holidays. It’s a lot of factors, but it definitely has picked up."

And especially in the last couple of days.

"We ran out of our time slot tickets yesterday at 10, and we were testing til 4, so you can imagine how long these lines have been," she says. "Blocks and blocks, and sometimes they loop into our parking lot."

Papadopoulos says the DotHouse site is testing between 140 and 160 people a day, and the main limiting factor is staffing.

"But it’s been good," she says. "We’re here for the community, that’s what’s most important, and we’re doing, I think, as best as we can."

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh says the coronavirus rates in the city have been improving in recent days for the first time in five weeks: tests are up, and cases are down. But he continues to urge residents to keep their guard up during the holiday — to keep the trend going in the right direction.

This segment aired on November 25, 2020.

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Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.

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