Update: COVID-19 in our Community

Special to the Times-Free Press

The East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) is working aggressively on the front lines of COVID-19. We are coordinating and developing resources so that our patients, staff, and community members have access to vital information and tools.

 As of April 19, EBNHC is offering COVID-19 testing seven days a week to patients as well as community members who have flu-like symptoms or have been in contact with someone who is COVID-19 positive. To be tested for COVID-19 at EBNHC, call 617-569-5800 for pre-authorization. Patients who arrive at Suffolk Downs or 79 Paris Street without pre-registration will not be tested. Patients and non-patients can come to our 10 Gove Street Emergency Department and Influenza-Like Illness Clinic. EBNHC has three testing areas:

• 10 Gove Street: Emergency Department (open 24/7) and Influenza-Like Illness Clinic (open 7 days a week)

• Drive-through at Suffolk Downs (must have pre-authorization)

• Walk-in at 79 Paris Street (must have pre-authorization)

EBNHC patients with non-urgent health issues are encouraged to schedule telemedicine appointments. Telemedicine allows health care professionals to evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients at a distance using a smartphone or computer. We use certified medical interpreters for languages other than English. Telemedicine allows us to continue to provide high-quality care to our patients during the COVID-19 pandemic while minimizing exposures. This is especially important if you have a chronic or a behavioral health condition. Call 617-569-5800 to schedule.

As of April 20, Massachusetts had more than 38,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,706 deaths. According to the Boston Globe, more than 3,700 residents with confirmed or likely cases of COVID-19 have been hospitalized. Chelsea, which is part of EBNHC’s service area, continues to have the state’s highest coronavirus rate. The majority of EBNHC’s COVID-19 patients are Latinx, which is a reflection of our community as well as the health disparities that are intensifying the pandemic’s impact. EBNHC president and CEO, Manny Lopes, has been appointed to Mayor Walsh’s COVID-19 Health Inequities Task Force, which is responding to the racial and ethnic disparities that are emphasized by this pandemic.

Latinx and African Americans have greater rates of obesity, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes—all of which are likely risk factors for COVID-19. Minority groups also tend to have higher rates of poverty, which is associated with less healthy lifestyles, lower rates of health insurance, and increased morbidity. Many minorities work in service jobs that can’t be done from home, which puts them at higher risk of novel coronavirus infection. Residents who are concerned about immigration status can be leery of governmental agencies and are less likely to seek medical care. Population density also plays a role in COVID-19 transmission rates—and East Boston and Chelsea are among Boston’s most populous neighborhoods.

Minorities will not only suffer worse health outcomes; they will also suffer economically. Poverty, unemployment, and underemployment are daunting factors in our community that are already worsening. 

Business leaders and economists predict that the economic downturn in Massachusetts will be particularly painful and our recovery will be slow. In the greater East Boston area, a high rate of food insecurity is worsening as our residents lose jobs and income. Last week, in partnership with the American Red Cross, EBNHC staff and volunteers stocked our new Community Resource Center at 282 Meridian Street with emergency canned and dry goods, providing our most vulnerable population with 300 bags of food. We are now delivering food to our high-risk patients and will continue to work aggressively to address local food insecurity. Community members in need can contact EBNHC’s Community Resource and Wellness Center at 617-568-4845.

Massachusetts is bracing for a peak in COVID-19 cases at the end of April. We ask every person who lives or works in our community to practice social distancing, wash their hands, and wear a facial covering when outside. The physical, emotional, and financial health of every resident is at stake. Please do your part.

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