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State Rep. Tami Gouveia files bill to mandate staff COVID-19 testing at vaccination sites

By AMY SOKOLOW | asokolow@lowellsun.com | PUBLISHED: February 22, 2021 at 11:36 a.m. | UPDATED: February 22, 2021 at 5:22 p.m.


ACTON — State Rep. Tami Gouveia has filed legislation to mandate stricter testing protocols for staff at the state’s vaccination sites.


Gouveia, a Democrat whose 14th Middlesex district includes Acton, Concord, Carlisle and Chelmsford, said in a statement that she “continue(s) to have serious concerns about the protocols and safety measures in place at mass vaccination sites to protect our residents from contracting COVID-19.”


The bill was co-sponsored by state Reps. Christopher Hendricks, Steven Owens, and Tram Nguyen, of the 18th Essex District, which includes a portion of Tewksbury.


This legislation will mandate that any employer, vendor or contractor at a vaccination site must produce a negative rapid antigen test. These antigen tests detect protein fragments of a virus, indicating contagiousness. The test is a quick nasal swab to gather a sample, and can produce a result in minutes. The tests have been shown to be over 98% effective at indicating whether a person is currently infected with COVID-19.


The bill would also require that individuals tasked with administering vaccines at mass vaccination sites be tested using a PCR test once a week. PCR tests are even more effective at detecting the virus than rapid tests because they search for the RNA, or genetic material, of the coronavirus rather than the fragments.


Gouveia has more authority to speak on this issue than most, given her long career in public health prior to assuming office in 2019. She also has a doctorate in public health from Boston University, which she completed last year.


Gouveia has led the state’s legislators on the pandemic response, advocating for increased uptake of rapid tests statewide, as well as reprioritizing the state’s vaccine distribution toward local health centers over mass vaccination sites. She has also filed legislation seeking for insurance companies to cover “post-COVID syndrome” for people experiencing long-term effects of the disease.


“In the midst of a global pandemic we must do all that we can to protect vulnerable individuals from the spread of COVID-19,” Gouveia said in a statement. “Mandating comprehensive testing at mass vaccination sites is an essential step to ensure the safety and well-being of our seniors, residents with co-morbidities, and others who are being encouraged to use these sites.”


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