With a fine dusting of snow on their heads, coats, and boots, about 30 people stood in a carefully spaced line outside the Whittier Street Health Center in Boston Friday, waiting in the cold for a COVID-19 test.
They stood with their arms crossed, some shaking in the winter air determined to get the tests and, fingers crossed, the paperwork declaring them infection-free.
Kobina Deniji had come to get his 4-year-old a test so he could return to school. But the little boy had gotten weary of the cold, so was waiting inside a tent about 30 feet away. Every so often, he stuck his head out to see how his father was doing.
“He’s inside the tent getting warm because he was crying that he’s cold,” Deniji said. Whittier was one of the only places he could find that still had testing appointments on Friday because of the storm, he said.
The woman next to him in line, Patricia Jones, had called ahead to make sure her 9 a.m. appointment was still on. After her doctor recommended that she get tested, she decided to miss work and make the trip to the clinic.
The trip to the clinic was complicated by the heavy snow that began falling overnight. The National Weather Service said by midday some parts of the city had gotten more than 10 inches of snow.
“I don’t have snow tires, so I’ve got to take my time,’' Deniji said. During the trip, he said he would “see cars slipping and sliding. So it was hectic getting here, but more so waiting in the cold in the snow. My toes are cramped.”
Frederica Williams, the health center’s chief executive, said the private contractor running the testing program in tents outside the building has been working hard to process people.
“We have to keep patients and staff safe during the snowstorm. Our private contractor and staff have been cleaning up snow to ensure there are no falls,” she said by e-mail. “I was just under the tent with the testing team, and I am DEEPLY grateful for the commitment and dedication of our staff.”
The testing program was scheduled to close at 1 p.m., but anyone in line would be tested, she said. Whittier has been running COVID-19 testing since April 2020 “regardless of the weather,” she added.
Whittier’s COVID-19 vaccination program, which is run inside the building, was also operating as scheduled Friday and would remain open until 8 p.m. Whittier did cancel its mobile vaccination clinic at Roxbury Prep because the school was closed for a snow day.
“No one is waiting outside for a shot and all vaccines are provided indoors on the second floor of our building,” Williams wrote. “I am glad that people kept their appointments and I am grateful that our staff showed up for work to ensure we administer these life-saving vaccinations and boosters.”
Grace Gilson can be reached at email@example.com.