WEST SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- The coronavirus testing center at the Eastern States Exposition is nearing the end of their first day of operation.
The drive-thru testing site is for first responders only.
The West Springfield site is the second in the state where first responders can get fast, free testing for coronavirus.
The other location is in Foxborough at Patriot Place, but this site will serve those in western Massachusetts who work on the front lines.
On the grounds of the Eastern States Exposition, Mass. National Guard troops and medical personnel began the task of testing local first responders for coronavirus.
“There was a line of cars memorial about 25 out on Memorial Avenue waiting to come in,” said Cliff Hedges, director of security for Eastern States Exposition.
At a place usually dedicated to fried food, crowds, and fun, Hedges explained how quickly the fairgrounds can be turned into a critical part of crisis infrastructure.
“Obviously, we deal with large amounts of people. We have all the cones, we have all the bike racks,” Hedges explained.
Firefighters, police officers, and EMS workers can call ahead to schedule an appointment. When they arrive at the site with their first responder credentials, Hedges explained, “They move them on through and then they get checked multiple other times. Then once they get in to the transportation center, they’re met by a National Guard person in hazmat gear.”
That National Guard member - called a runner - stays with that vehicle until it drives up to the testing site, where the frontline worker receives the nasal swab.
It may be a drive-thru, but it still takes time to be thorough.
“Averages about 20 to 30 minutes per car,” Hedges explained.
Hedges told Western Mass News the testing site can serve around 250 first responders a day, and that test results come back in 24 to 48 hours.
Officials expect the testing site will be open seven days a week for around a month, twice the length of The Big E fair.
This operation is a lot less colorful and a lot more quiet than the normal occupants of these grounds, but for someone who spent 31 years in law enforcement as a frontline worker himself, Hedges said giving back is critical and that the Eastern States Exposition e is the perfect place to do it.
“This is been kind of an all-hands-on-deck. It’s nice to see people come together and work together,” Hedges explained.