WORCESTER – As COVID-19 cases continue to rise due to the impact of the omicron variant, the city is recommending that people get tested before and after any holiday gatherings or travel.
"This is a really serious moment that we're in, probably the most intense spread of the virus we've seen since the pandemic started," City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. said. "If folks test positive, they need to isolate. If they're negative and they gather for the holidays, we recommend they test when they get back."
The city began giving out about 70,000 at-home COVID-19 testing kits Dec. 17, which are being distributed through various community organizations.
Boys & Girls Club of Worcester
The Boys & Girls Club of Worcester received 250 test boxes and it has already given all of them out.
“The need is great and the families and individuals receiving them are very grateful. Some of them are going to use it on Christmas morning before visiting elderly relatives. It’s been a real godsend for a lot of people and helps us limit potential COVID exposure,” said Liz Hamilton, executive director at the Boys & Girls Club of Worcester.
Centro Worcester, which received five cases of 90 tests each, started distributing them at its food pantry at 17 Charlton St.
"I think this is a great tool. Last year the biggest surge that Massachusetts saw was immediately before Christmas so this is a tool we're happy to have," said Jonathan Marien, director of social enterprise and economic enterprise at Centro Worcester.
African Community Education
African Community Education received the tests recently and plans to start distributing them this week, after it educates the parents of families it works with on how to use the test, according to Amy Corneliussen, grants manager.
At Ansaar Worcester, which received about 100 tests last week, it had run out of a quarter of them in half a day, according to Mona Ives from the organization.
The city manager said Worcester plans to distribute more tests this week to help limit the spread of the virus. A mobile clinic will start offering testing and vaccinations in Worcester soon.
When asked whether Worcester plans to implement a vaccination mandate similar to Boston, Augustus didn't discount the possibility.
"I have taken nothing off the table but right now we're focused on distributing the kits and expanding booster sites. We'll probably be reevaluating the city's vaccine policy over what constitutes full vaccination status and whether a booster should be included in that," Augustus said.
A full list of organizations involved in distribution of at-home COVID-19 test kits can be found on the city's website.