PITTSFIELD — Natalia Agrelo, 17, and her younger brother, Fabian, idled midway through in a line of cars Monday outside Taconic High School.
It was their second effort at getting a COVID-19 test.
They had been there about 45 minutes, but were determined after trying to get a test Sunday at Reid Middle School, where the line of cars stretched all the way from the school to North Street at times.
“We decided to stick it out today,” said Agrelo, a student at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.
She said she and her brother, a seventh grader at Reid, weren’t experiencing any symptoms, but they sought a free COVID-19 test as a precaution headed into the holiday. They already had canceled plans for a November trip to Puerto Rico to visit family.
“We’re staying home this year,” she said. “We didn’t want to get anybody sick.”
The drive-thru COVID-19 testing site was established for Pittsfield students, staff and their families, part of the state’s “Stop the Spread” initiative. Because the initiative offers tests to those who don’t feel sick, “Stop the Spread” testing sites in the state often draw asymptomatic individuals, people who might not otherwise qualify for a no-cost COVID-19 test.
Eric Lamoureaux, health and safety coordinator for the district, said about 460 people were tested over about nine hours Sunday at Reid, and a similar number were expected to be tested at Taconic on Monday. The tests were administered by a team from Cataldo Ambulance Service in Somerville.
No medical insurance, appointment or fee was required, though testing was targeted toward the Pittsfield Public Schools community.
High demand for tests Sunday, days before Thanksgiving and held on a weekend when children were not in remote school, created an hourslong wait for many who sought a test.
“Some were in line for three hours [Sunday],” Lamoureaux said. Monday’s lines were significantly shorter, typically about an hour and 15 minutes or so.
He said the hope is that some of those who received a test will learn their results before Thanksgiving.
Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday repeated his appeal to Bay State residents to forgo large gatherings and to celebrate Thanksgiving only with members of their own households.
Last week, Baker acknowledged long lines at COVID-19 testing sites in Massachusetts, and said his administration was in talks with the federal government about how to expand the state’s testing capacity, among other testing-related issues.
Results from both testing sites also will help inform the district as it weighs whether to bring back students to classrooms Dec. 7, or extend remote learning longer, Lamoureaux said. The district, which had been in a hybrid learning mode, shifted back to remote learning Nov. 13, after a spike in coronavirus cases in the community.
“Our goal is to see if we can get some folks back on the seventh,” he said.
Aside from the long wait times Sunday, Lamoureaux said the testing initiative otherwise went smoothly. The city’s police, highway and maintenance departments, along with the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office, assisted the effort.
“Between all the agencies working together, we had a very good plan and we were ready to roll,” Lamoureaux said.
Material from State House News Service was used in this report.