Paramedics from the Hanover Fire Department are making house calls to local residents who want to be tested for COVID-19, with the nose swabs going to South Shore Health in Weymouth for analysis as part of a cooperative program between the hospital system and the town.
Since April, more than 100 Hanover residents have been tested for free in their homes, according to South Shore Health spokeswoman Susan Griffin.
In a separate arrangement, Hanover paramedics have been working with the Hanover public schools, testing all staff twice before school opened, and now providing free, quick-result tests for students and staff who exhibit any virus symptoms.
Altogether, Hanover paramedics have administered close to 1,200 tests since the pandemic began, according to Fire Chief Jeff Blanchard.
Deputy Fire Chief Jason Cavallaro said that, as of Oct. 7, one person in the public schools had tested positive for COVID-19. School officials said there was no exposure at the school.
The cost of the testing — about $100,000 so far — is reimbursed with federal CARES Act money through Plymouth County, Blanchard said.
The benefits are big for the individuals being tested, the schools, and the community, he said.
“We feel being able to do in-home testing is not only convenient, but a great way to minimize spreading the virus,” he said.
Having access to the tests also will make it easier for schools to manage their reopening, he said. The school component allows anyone in the system to be tested immediately at school or home, with results back from a Cambridge lab in less than 24 hours.
The testing program initially focused on homebound seniors and those who were physically unable to get to a testing center, but has since expanded to all residents of the town, Blanchard said.
Hanover had been working for more than a year on partnering with South Shore Health in a state program called Mobile Integrated Health, which allows paramedics to bring health care into people’s homes in conjunction with a local medical system.
“We had laid the groundwork,” Blanchard said. “We didn’t know a pandemic was coming, but we wanted to take advantage of the concept.”
After the pandemic arrived, Hanover quickly formalized the partnership and designated two vehicles — a pickup truck with a cap on the back to protect equipment, and an SUV — for the house call COVID tests.
Residents can call the non-emergency dispatch number (781-826-3151) to request a test, and a paramedic wearing a mask and other protective gear will do an assessment, call a designated number at South Shore Health to consult with a doctor, and get an order for a test. The paramedic will then do the test, and bring the sample to the South Shore Hospital lab for processing.
Currently, it takes between three and seven days to get results, said Deputy Chief Jason Cavallaro. “It’s frustrating for us and the patients but [the time] is beyond our control,” he added.
Cavallaro said everyone who is tested receives a follow-up call and offers of additional help.
“The feedback has been very positive,” he said of the program. “The patients, and family members of the patients are very appreciative and happy that they can get the service right in town and in their homes.”
Johanna Seltz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.