Last week, ahead of the Christmas Holiday, the City of Boston began distributing free at-home rapid COVID test kits to the Bremen Street Branch of the Boston Public Library as well as the BCYF Paris Street Community Center in East Boston with plans in place to expand the program to all BCYF sites and library branches.
Eastie residents seeking a test kit were able to obtain kits for their immediate family, subject to availability. Boston Public School students in Eastie were also sent home with an at-home test kit last Thursday with two tests to help ensure a safe return to school after winter break. Additional test kit distribution will employ a targeted approach to reach specific vulnerable populations like here in Eastie where 1 out of every 10 people testing for the virus were found to be positive last week.
Mayor Michelle Wu said the City will coordinate with service providers, community partners, and Vaccine Equity partners to ensure direct and timely distribution. “We must rely on testing, vaccination and other safety practices to ensure the health of us and our loved ones,” said Wu. “Led by Dr. Ojikutu with collaboration from agencies across the city, we will help our communities be together and celebrate safely. I am grateful to Governor Baker for swift action and all our city employees for their hard work to get these test kits into the hands of our residents.”
Earlier this month Baker announced state officials would be providing 2.1 million kits statewide. With these state kits and the City’s initial purchase of test kits earlier in the month, the City of Boston will be able to provide more than 260,000 kits for distribution throughout Boston. Each kit contained two tests, meaning there were over a half a million free rapid tests made available to residents.
“We’re distributing these kits with a focus on communities and populations experiencing higher rates of COVID-19 and barriers to testing, including people who cannot afford to purchase these kits from stores,” said Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission. “Rapid antigen testing is an important mitigation strategy to prevent COVID-19 transmission. Access must be equitable.” By last Thursday, the BPHC reported that they had already distributed over 180,000 rapid, at-home COVID-19 testing kits to Eastie and Boston residents. “We want to thank our residents for responding to this call, and for taking this quick action to protect themselves, their families, and their communities,” said Ojikutu. “Our focus has been on speed, equity, and getting kits in the hands of people in high-risk populations.” Ojikutu said the BCYF sites in Eastie, as well as Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan and Hyde Park, distributed over 23,000 kits before Christmas.
“Because the demand for kits across our city is so enormous, we can report that all BCYF and most BPL public distribution sites have now exhausted their supplies,” said Ojikutu. “While their supplies last, our community partners will continue to provide kits to high-need populations to ensure a focused, equitable, distribution. This phase of our test-kit distribution work has proven what we already know, that there is incredible demand for testing in our communities. While the supply of test kits in this City-State partnership effort is limited, we are exploring all avenues to expand testing – both rapid antigen tests and clinic sites – in the new year.
This public health response work, including meeting demand for testing and vaccinations broadly, will continue to require collaboration and commitments of resources from all levels of government. We applaud President Biden’s announcement to expand access to at-home testing and will continue to advocate at the state and federal levels for additional testing resources and distribution that is guided by the same principles we have applied here.”
Consistent with state and national trends, Eastie and Boston are experiencing a surge in case numbers and hospitalizations. Wu and Ojikutu urge all residents to get vaccinated and boosted. If you are exposed to COVID-19 or presenting upper respiratory symptoms, please get tested immediately, regardless of vaccine status. For information about clinics and vaccine availability visit https://www.boston.gov/departments/public-health-commission/covid-19-vaccine-boston. For more information on where to find a free rapid test kit near you, visit https://www.boston.gov/departments/public-health-commission/free-covid-19-home-test-kits.