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Mayor and City Manager Announce Pilot Project for COVID-19 Testing in Nursing Homes

Located near Central Square, the Broad Institute is a center for biomedical and genomics research.
Located near Central Square, the Broad Institute is a center for biomedical and genomics research. By Ryan N. Gajarawala
By Maria G. Gonzalez, Crimson Staff Writer

The Cambridge Health Department will partner with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard on a pilot project to test for COVID-19 in nursing homes, the City announced Friday.

The one-week project will facilitate “surveillance testing,” in which all residents and healthcare workers in Cambridge nursing homes and assisted living facilities will be tested for coronavirus at least once — regardless of whether they are symptomatic.

Surveillance testing aims to create an “early warning system” that will give the City officials “rapid information about infection rates among those who are at most risk for serious illness upon contracting COVID-19,” according to the City’s announcement.

According to the City’s announcement, the Broad Institute will supply tests to Cambridge’s seven nursing homes — Cambridge Rehabilitation & Nursing Center, Neville Center at Fresh Pond for Nursing & Rehabilitation, Sancta Maria Nursing Facility, Cadbury Commons, Neville Place, The Cambridge Homes, and Youville House Assisted Living. EMTs from Pro EMS, Cambridge’s contracted ambulance service, will collect samples, and the Broad Institute will process the tests at its state-approved lab.

Cambridge Commissioner of Public Health Assaad J. Sayah said in an interview that caring for the City’s nursing home residents is a crucial priority during the coronavirus pandemic.

"We are faced with an unprecedented public health emergency, which calls for unprecedented action in taking care of those who are most vulnerable to disease and death caused by COVID-19," Sayah said.

"This rapid testing program has the potential to protect Cambridge residents living in our nursing homes and effectively and efficiently determine positive cases, care for and quarantine our loved ones and their caregivers, and mitigate further spread of this virus by isolating all other home residents," he added.

In a joint statement released Friday, Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui and City Manager Louis A. DePasquale said that the project could become a model for rapid testing procedures in nursing homes during the outbreak.

“The research institutions in our City are at the forefront of the global effort to contain the coronavirus, and we have an extraordinary opportunity to partner with them to help protect our most vulnerable citizens,” Siddiqui and DePasquale said.

“This pilot program will hopefully become a model for testing in nursing facilities and eventually the broader community, allowing us to better identify and contain outbreaks before they impact these facilities and the community-at-large,” they added.

—Staff Writer Maria G. Gonzalez can be reached at maria.gonzalez@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @mariaagrace1.

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