Wareham to receive thousands of free covid-19 tests

Dec 14, 2021

Facing rising numbers of covid-19 cases and an expected holiday gathering spike, Wareham is poised to see its coronavirus situation get worse before it gets better. 

But, fortunately for those who live in town, Wareham will soon have another tool to combat the spread of the virus. Wareham is one of more than 100 municipalities in Massachusetts set to receive thousands of at-home rapid antigen tests for covid-19

Gov. Charlie Baker announced the state’s latest initiative, which was designed to provide increased access to covid-19 tests in communities with the highest percentages of families below the poverty level, on Dec. 13. 

Patrick MacDonald, acting in both his roles as emergency management director and director of public health, said he’s been hard at work since the announcement to determine how tests would be distributed. He said the state provided no real guidelines regarding test distribution.

“It’s, at this point, a free for all,” he said. “So we are working on a plan right now as far as (determining) a fair and equitable way to distribute these to people who need them.” 

During the Select Board meeting on Dec. 14, Chair Judith Whiteside announced that the Health Department staff would screen people who need tests, to confirm they are symptomatic or have had a covid-19 exposure when unvaccinated.

“As much as I’d love to give everyone one to hold onto in case of an emergency — there’s not going to be enough for that,” he said, noting that the town expects to receive nearly 7,000 total tests. “To prevent people from stockpiling them, we’re going to try to hand them out on an as-needed basis.” 

Whiteside said once people have been approved, “a delivery will be scheduled with the corresponding fire district, or with Wareham EMS if necessary.”

At the moment, it is still unclear when the town will have the tests on hand. 

“We’re supposed to receive shipping information as early as the day before and as late as a half-hour before (the tests) show up,” he said.

MacDonald noted that some consideration had to be given regarding how to physically hand out the test kits. If people have reason to believe they need to be tested for covid-19, he said, there is a risk of exposure.

“We don’t necessarily want people coming into one of our public buildings where we have a lot of employees working if they could have the virus,” he said.

Despite the lack of advanced notice and the limited information the state has provided, MacDonald emphasized that the town was “glad to have the tests.”

This story has been updated to reflect information provided by Judith Whiteside at the Dec. 14 Select Board meeting.