Agawam Mayor William Sapelli told MassLive that the free one-day test center at Six Flags New England, which opened on Monday, is to help townspeople get tested before the holidays. It was funded by the CARES Act funding granted to Agawam.
“Positive cases are increasing in Massachusetts and we must take all possible measures to control the spread of this virus,” said Sapelli standing at the test site to oversee the operation.
Agawam’s purchasing manager, Jennifer Bonfiglio, played a key role in setting up the tests with American Medical Response and city firefighters who performed the tests on residents of Agawam.
AMR is also performing tests at the Eastfield Mall in Springfield and, at its peak, recorded about 1,600 people coming for testing before Thanksgiving, according to the AMR spokesperson. Over 1,000 people are tested daily at the AMR Boston Road site.
AMR’s director of operations Patrick Leonardo spoke to MassLive in August when the emergency response organization set up the free COVID-19 testing site at the Springfield Mall. He said he was surprised by the number of people who came to Springfield and the growing number.
AMR started with just two three-person shifts in July operating three lanes. Due to increased demand, this has now expanded to seven teams of three, operating six lanes.
Sapelli and Bonfiglio told MassLive they have the capacity to manage up to 800 residents during the five hours of operation. The cost of the site, which was set up at Six Flags New England amusement park, was around $ 80,000 depending on how many people come for testing. Six Flags provided the venue for free, according to the mayor.
“We used our own budget to do it,” said Sapelli. “Our budget was basically the CARES money that we use for a lot of things.”
The $ 150 billion COVID law relief was approved on March 27 to help a county, town, city, township, village, parish or borough with more than 500,000 residents.
The mayor said he would be very happy if the Stop the Spread program was put in place in his town and pointed out that the Six Flags location is perfect for a large number of visitors with the existing infrastructure of the park gates to theme.
“We want to take care of our people here in Agawam,” said Sapelli of the test site’s investment in his town. “We bought Chromebooks, additional police and firefighters[fighters]. [We addressed] all the issues we’ve had with the COVID situation. “
He also said part of the CARES law money was used to provide the elderly with food delivered by the city. Bonfiglio considered where the money could be spent to best help the community and fill the gaps caused by the pandemic, according to the mayor.
Sapelli has expressed concern for Agawam restaurants, bars and golf courses. The Massachusetts Restaurant Association states that there are approximately 16,000 restaurants statewide. Bob Luz, president and CEO of the MRA, said in an interview with the Boston Herald that 3,400 restaurants have had to close their doors for good due to COVID-19.
“They can’t open. They don’t have weddings, ”the mayor said. “All of these golf courses have these nice banquet halls but they can’t have weddings, so they closed. Here at Six Flags, it’s closed. They suffer. They have nothing that fits.
If you need a COVID test, visit the state’s website for other testing locations.