SARS Covid-19 Testing Session Scheduled in Bedford onTuesday, April 28

The small testing tent can be seen along Elm Street, on First Parish’s part of Bedford Common. Tuesday’s testing will take place in the historic meeting house’s narthex.

The Bedford Research Foundation (BRF) and First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church on Bedford Common plan a second SARS Covid-19 testing session on Tuesday, April 28, with scheduled appointments between 10:30 am and 2:30 pm.

BRF Director Ann Kiessling said, “Everyone should have access to SARS2 testing whenever they want to be tested.  Period. No stipulations.” The community at large is invited to visit for additional information.

Pre-registration is required online at Registration must be completed before 12:30 pm on Monday, April 27 to allow BRF to assign appointments and prepare appropriate paperwork.

Tests will be administered in the narthex (vestibule) of First Parish, entering and exiting onto Bedford Common. If the building’s historic granite steps are an accessibility barrier for anyone, the medical staff will conduct their test in a tent on the Common.

Everyone to be tested will receive a specific appointment time and corresponding number. To assure social distancing, everyone will remain in their cars, with their appointment number prominently displayed in the driver’s side window.

The test fee is $65 per person. Subsidies are available if needed, and insurance reimbursement may be possible if allowed by a specific provider. Payment instructions will be included in the email response to your registration.

Preregistration is mandatory. No walk-ins can be tested.

First Parish Senior Minister John Gibbons noted, ”Ability to pay should not deter anyone from registering. Between BRF and First Parish, all costs will be covered.  Our goal is to have as many people tested as possible,” adding, “in collaboration with BRF, we hope to provide a model of expanded testing that may be applied to many affected groups: grocery workers, nursing homes, hospitals, inner-city residents, etc. ”

A Pilot Project on April 21

Shawn Hanegan watching preparations for his test

First Parish and Bedford Research Foundation offered a pilot testing project on Bedford Common last Tuesday. The partnership joined BRF’s local testing capacity and First Parish’s strong internal communication system, commitment to civic engagement, and community networks that could make testing available to everyone.

Maria Batilo, MD, was on duty along with Matt Antonellis, a BRF scientist, to perform the actual tests. After testing, the swabs are sealed in test tubes along with a fluid to inactivate the virus, rendering it no longer infectious, before delivering it to BRF’s laboratory. Results were expected to be emailed to the participants within a few days.

As the first samples were being collected, Dr. Kiessling noted that a positive reading from an asymptomatic donor would be especially valuable, since that person could then be quarantined and not pass the virus any further.

Among the first to be tested on April 21, Sarah Dorer reported amazement at the smooth process. “I was given a very specific time slot,” she said, “and arrived 5 minutes early. It was easy to find a parking spot, and I was approached for the test almost immediately. It was done in less than 10 minutes. I was very impressed.”

Dorer also applauded the idea of more widely available testing, thanking Kiessling for her efforts to bring testing to the community, and expressing pride that First Parish stepped forward to help make the pilot project possible.

First Parish Senior Minister John Gibbons applauded the successful pilot program. “Ann Kiessling and the BRF team organized an orderly and safe testing regimen. The Bedford Police and members of the Board of Health were most helpful. Yes, blustering winds cut short Tuesday’s program, but testing will be resumed next week with provision for our variable weather.”

About Bedford Research Foundation and FDA Emergency Response Authorization

Liam Oates being tested during the pilot project

The director of Bedford Research Foundation (BRF), longtime Bedford resident Dr. Ann Kiessling, responded to a request from the Food and Drug Administration on February 29, 2020, that all federally licensed (CLIA) laboratories consider setting up a test for SARS2 under an Emergency Response Authorization.

Since the Bedford lab was already authorized by  CLIA and the FDA for its specialized HIV testing, offering Covid-19 tests seemed like something BRF could/should do. State Rep. Ken Gordon and State Sen. Mike Barrett, Bedford’s legislators, shared the application information with Gov. Baker’s Covid Task Force and advocated for its approval.  BRF began organizing on March 2, registered with the FDA, and did its first tests for Emerson Hospital on March 20.

Making testing open to everyone, regardless of where they live, what affiliation they may have, or what ability they have to pay, is a priority for Kiessling.  Her goal is for testing to be available to EVERYONE who wants a test, regardless of any other considerations.

Kiessling hopes BRF’s test will prove to be sufficiently accurate and speedy to be routinely available for use by first responders, grocery store clerks, and other essential front line workers. She added, “There is a huge pent-up demand for testing that is way too difficult to accomplish. Our joint effort is a definite step in the right direction that needs to be amplified many-fold.”

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