Boston Considers Turning Reggie Lewis Center into Testing and Vaccination Site


As COVID-19 cases reach record numbers, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu looks into opening new testing and vaccination sites around the city; one that is particularly controversial is the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury. 

The COVID-19 Omicron variant has started another surge in cases with the United States breaking the global record with 1.35 million cases in one day. Doctors believe the cases are supposed to peak soon according to how Omicron affected other countries, but in the meantime, the variant continues to run rampant. As many kids are absent from school with COVID-19, schools have to deal with the question of shutting down sports and other extracurriculars. The demand for COVID-19 tests is at its peak right now, as pharmacies are selling out of rapid antigen tests, and there are not many PCR testing sites open in the area.

According to a wbur news article, Boston officials said they plan to open at least three new COVID-19 testing sites by the end of January. The Reggie Lewis Center (the Reggie) was used as a mass vaccination center last year, so the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) is looking into using it again this year to deal with the Omicron surge. This possibility brings controversy across the state because the Reggie stands as one of the only indoor tracks used for high schools in Massachusetts and turning it into a mass testing and vaccination site may end a lot of indoor track seasons early.

Executive director of BPHC Dr. Bisola Ojikutu has said they are having “some discussions with sites like Reggie Lewis to see if [they] could open up a place that would be easily accessible to multiple neighborhoods and people who are more vulnerable and neighborhoods where there’s higher positivity rates.” 

Due to the lack of indoor tracks in Massachusetts, hundreds of high school teams rely on the Reggie every week. Whether it be weekday league meets or weekend invitationals, the Reggie is always filled with numerous high schools. Last year, there were no track meets at the Reggie, which is why athletes are so eager to have a normal season and continue running at the Reggie. 

One senior captain from Newton North decided to take it upon himself to write a letter about why the Reggie should stay open for track meets. His argument included both sides; although COVID-19 is a public health crisis and it should come first, there are other places that could be used for testing and vaccinations. He explained how many athletes need sports to keep them both physically and emotionally stable throughout the year and how tough it was for students to be kept out of school and sports during quarantine. He also touched upon how he has personally been affected by COVID-19 with family members passing away from the virus and how he understands the need for more testing and vaccination sites, but wishes it could be somewhere else. The Newton North athlete started a petition for people to sign to send to state senators and others in influential positions in the city to possibly change their decision if the city of Boston decides to go ahead with the proposition. 

Although COVID-19 cases have greatly increased in the past few weeks and right now the pandemic may feel never-ending, people must be aware that new variants and herd immunity are going to be beneficial in the future; as more people get the virus, more build immunity to it as well.