The Baker administration's current COVID-19 monitoring "fails to paint a nuanced picture" for many western Massachusetts communities, state lawmakers warned Monday as they called for the establishment of a free testing site in Hampshire County.
Officials launched the Stop the Spread campaign to make testing more widely available in communities that lack access to it, and the three sites in the western part of the state are all in Hampden County, which lawmakers said renders the resources inaccessible to many of Hampshire's residents.
The impending return of students to K-12 schools and colleges further underscores the need for a testing site, they said, because of the risks associated with travel between different communities. They also flagged concerns that the administration's community categories imply that many areas face no risk of the highly infectious virus.
"Our request is made all the more urgent by the ways in which the current community data map fails to paint a nuanced picture for small communities like the ones we represent," the 11 lawmakers said in their letter. "We have considerable concern that our communities are interpreting their 'white' status on the map as an indication of zero risk (when that's absolutely not necessarily the case) leaving our region more vulnerable to spikes like the ones that hit South Hadley and Granby."
Earlier in the summer, state officials launched a pop-up testing site in Northampton, but that option expired. Lawmakers said that the town of Amherst, which is also home to the UMass flagship campus, has expressed interest in hosting a Stop the Spread location.
Six representatives and five senators signed the letter: Democratic Reps. Mindy Domb, Natalie Blais, Daniel Carey and Thomas Petrolati, Republican Rep. Todd Smola and independent Rep. Susannah Whipps, as well asDemocratic Sens. Jo Comerford, Anne Gobi, Adam Hinds, Eric Lesser and John Velis.