PAWTUCKET – With Rhode Island College preparing for the coming school year, the COVID-19 rapid testing site at the RIC workforce development hub on Dexter Street in Central Falls will be transitioned back to the college, meaning the rapid testing site has been relocated to a City of Pawtucket-owned lot less than a mile away.

Since May, the testing facility at 934 Dexter St. in Central Falls has been open to the public and providing rapid COVID-19 testing for Central Falls and Pawtucket residents. But with the school year approaching, the site is now being transitioned back to RIC, according to city spokesman Wil Arboleda.

“Rhode Island College stepped up and allowed the Beat COVID-19 initiative to use the site and we thank them for their partnership,” Arboleda said.

Pawtucket Mayor Donald R. Grebien, Central Falls Mayor James A. Diossa, CVS Health, the Beat COVID-19 initiative, the Rhode Island Department of Health, and the Health Equity Zone announced that the rapid testing site for Pawtucket and Central Falls residents would be relocated not even a mile down the road to a municipal lot at 91 Dexter St. in Pawtucket, and residents are asked to continue to call 855-843-7620 to schedule appointments.

The site will remain an extension of the Beat COVID-19 initiative, a grassroots system that gives people in both Pawtucket and Central Falls – who otherwise might not feel comfortable getting tested or have access to a primary care doctor – access to testing, information about how to be safe while sick and protect their family and community, and resources to overcome hardships associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The CVS Health rapid testing site has been integral to combatting the coronavirus pandemic in Pawtucket and Central Falls,” Grebien said in a press release. “On behalf of the Beat COVID-19 initiative, we would like to thank Gov. (Gina) Raimondo, CVS Health, RIDOH, HEZ and all of our community partners who have helped us since the start of the initiative. Together, we will continue to ensure that our residents have easy access to testing. I would also like to recognize Rhode Island College for allowing us to use their site for the past few months.”

Diossa added: “We have been so grateful to CVS Health and Rhode Island College for allowing us to use the space at 934 Dexter St. and are thankful that a testing site will remain local at the new location on Dexter Street in Pawtucket. The Beat COVID-19 initiative, with all of its amazing partners, has allowed the residents of Central Falls and Pawtucket to access critical resources like testing and family support services, and I am glad that it will continue the process in its new location.”

According to information from the Rhode Island Department of Health, Pawtucket and Central Falls remain two of the hardest-hit communities in Rhode Island by the virus. Pawtucket is second among the state’s 39 cities and towns with 1,826 positive tests, while Central Falls is fourth with 1,022. But Central Falls tops in the state with a 21 percent positivity rate, while Pawtucket tied for third with 13 percent.

“Working with the Beat COVID-19 Initiative to support community-based testing in Pawtucket and Central Falls is an important part of our comprehensive COVID-19 testing strategy,” said Dr. Garth Graham, vice president of community health and chief community health officer with CVS Health. “We appreciate the leadership of Mayors Grebien and Diossa in coordinating this effort which allows us to further expand testing in areas of greatest need.”

“Together with the cities, the Health Equity Zone collaborative partnership is focused on addressing the disproportionate burden the virus has put on Pawtucket and Central Falls. Testing is a critical step in protecting our neighbors,” said Jeanne Cola, executive director of Local Initiatives Support Corporation. “We are incredibly grateful for the rapid testing that CVS is bringing us. It’s free, fast, and there are no questions asked.”

Jonathan Bissonnette on Twitter @J_Bissonnette

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