Eastfield Mall sees decline in COVID-19 testing, increase in positive cases

Officials told Western Mass News the sharp decline, down from 2,000 to 3,000 visitors at the site’s peak last year, is troubling.
Published: Jul. 11, 2022 at 6:35 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - A new COVID-19 subvariant is quickly spreading, so we wanted to know: are people still visiting local COVID-19 testing sites? And if not how long before these testing sites close down?

While testing numbers at the Eastfield Mall are down, officials said that positivity rates are up. With a new subvariant on the rise, they implore people to continue to test and stop the spread.

It has been smooth sailing for the 100 to 200 daily visitors at the Eastfield Mall’s “Stop the Spread” COVID-19 testing site.

“I’m picking up my results of my lab test that I took yesterday,” Kim Mazur of Ludlow told us. “It’s much more efficient now.”

However, officials told Western Mass News the sharp decline, down from 2,000 to 3,000 visitors at the site’s peak last year, is troubling.

“Good news and bad news, there’s virtually no waiting anymore, but the bad news with that is there’s very few people that are being tested now,” said AMR Field Supervisor and Paramedic Jeffrey Suriano.

Suriano said that they are currently seeing about a 20% spike in positivity rates, which could be because most visitors arrive after testing positive with a rapid at-home test. However, his message is still clear.

“The virus is not done with us, even if we think we’re done with it,” Suriano said.

With a new COVID-19 subvariant, BA.5, on the rise, he urges people to continue testing. We asked Suriano what makes this new subvariant particularly troubling.

“BA.5 seems to be alluding the immunity, as well as vaccinations to some degree,” he said. “It’s a problem. It’s more infectious than before.”

Currently, the Eastfield Mall testing site is open through August 31st.

Another point of concern for Suriano is that school districts will no longer be required to provide free COVID-19 rapid tests to students and teachers in the fall.

With demand currently at an all-time low, the end of summer could mean the end of the road for this testing site.

“With these test numbers, as low as they are, I encourage everyone to get tested,” he said. “These numbers, as low as they are… looking at August 31st for now.”

Officials said people should continue practicing social distancing, mask wearing, hand washing, and testing before gathering in large groups.

They also added that there is no timetable yet on when they will learn if they will remain open beyond August 31st.