Since cases of COVID-19 feel dramatically in the aftermath of the Delta and Omicron variants, visits at Codman’s offsite COVID-19 testing facility at Russell Auditorium (70 Talbot Ave., Dorchester) decreased, too. The site closed on Thursday, March 31 at noon.
Patients and community members looking for a COVID-19 test can visit Codman’s Urgent Care department Monday-Friday 8:30 am to 12:30 pm by appointment. We will accept walk-ins if the schedule allows. Below, see the timeline of Russell Auditorium’s role in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Codman’s Offsite Testing Site Opens
Codman opened Russell Auditorium as a COVID-19 testing site in November of 2020 when COVID-19 cases were spiking, and there was still not yet a vaccine. The new offsite facility provided a place where patients and staff could be tested quickly, easily, and conveniently in a socially distanced setting, while freeing up the health center to deliver the primary care and other services that patients and community need.
Planning and launching an offsite testing quickly was a challenge. Clinical staff needed to create protocols. Human Resources needed to staff the facility in an extremely tight labor market. Building Services staff had to make all the physical accommodations to turn a function hall into a medical facility. Communications needed to quickly get the word out to patients and community members about the new site.
Russell quickly became an invaluable community resource where people could go when they were sick, travelling, needed testing for school and work, and more. The numbers in the below chart show the value of the resource.
Russell Auditorium Closes then Re-Opens
In late June of 2020, COVID-19 rates were declining. People were starting to shed their masks and get together, and the pandemic seemed to be receding in our rear-view mirror. Testing demand declined sharply to the point that we closed Russell Auditorium for COVID-19 testing and moved it back to Urgent Care.
Enter the Delta variant, which became the dominant strain of COVID-19 in August 2020. The Health Center started to become full with people seeking out testing, so Codman re-opened Russell Auditorium for COVID-19 testing.
Russell Becomes Community Testing and Vaccination Center
By late December of 2020, the FDA had approved a vaccination for COVID-19, and Codman partnered with Boston Medical Center to open high-volume COVID-19 vaccination site, also at Russell Auditorium, and the building became a COVID-19 testing and vaccination facility.
Throughout 2020 and the first few months of 2021, the community came to see Russell Auditorium as the go-to site for COVID-19 testing and vaccines. Demand for vaccinations gradually decreased as people got their shots, and many additional sites opened up to provide more. In February, 2022, BMC closed its vaccination site and Codman followed the next month and closed its testing site there.
As valuable as the Russell Auditorium has been in addressing COVID-19, we hope that pandemic infections do not increase enough to necessitate a need to open the site again.
In a groundbreaking partnership with three other health centers and four local organizations, Codman created BostonisPrEPared.com to promote the availability of PrEP, a medication that helps prevent HIV. The partnership marks the first time in Boston that health centers have combined resources to promote HIV prevention options in Boston.
PrEP was first approved in 2012 as a medication that, when taken correctly, can reduce a person’s chance of contracting HIV by up to 99%. While its existence has contributed greatly to the decline in new HIV diagnosis rates in cities across America, its uptake has been slower than expected in Boston. To encourage more PrEP usage the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and some other organizations awarded grants to several health centers and agencies to promote PrEP usage.
The campaign was created after HIV leaders at Codman Square Health Center realized that health centers and agencies could make more of a public health impact if we pooled our resources with each other to promote the availability of PrEP. The campaign was designed with input from consumers and the collaborating organizations and coordination with MDPH.
The campaign features beautiful photos of several community members who talk about why they take PrEP. It also features a community member who is HIV positive who talks about what keeping up with his medication means to him. The photos were used in ads for BostonisPrEPared.com and posted on buses, train stations, billboards, and even wrapped subway cars.
Participating Health Centers
- Codman Square Health Center
- DotHouse Health
- Harbor Health
- Mattapan Community Health Center
- East Boston Neighborhood Community Health Center
Participating local agencies
- New England AIDS Education and Training Center
- Justice Resource Institute
- Multicultural AIDS Coalition (MAC)
Dr. Renee Crichlow, Codman’s Chief Medical Officer, joined the team in February of 2020. Dr. Crichlow was quickly recognized in Boston media as an expert in medicine, health policy, and health equity. She has has been a guest on Boston Public Radio three times since she started her tenure at Codman
May 2021: Vaccine Hesitancy Among Parents
August 2021: Back to School Safety
Setpember 2021: Health Care Workers’ Vaccination Rates
January 2022: COVID-19 Rates and Health Care Worker Burnout
As the news about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Massachusetts focused on inequities in availability, Community Health Centers and Boston Medical Center (BMC) were in the process of planning and implementing large-scale vaccination clinics for Boston’s communities of color. GBH TV, which has been covering the vaccine rollout, invited community leaders, including Sandra Cotterell, Codman’s CEO, to speak about the situation.
Sandra appeared on the program, Greater Boston, on March 2 with host Jim Braude and fellow community leader Bishop John Borders, III to discuss the vaccine rollout, as well as the vaccination clinics that Boston Medical Center opened in Boston neighborhoods.
The show reported that while 25% of Boston residents are Black, only 18% had received their first vaccine doses. Meanwhile, Hispanics make up 20% of the cities population and only 9% had received their first dose. Meanwhile, Whites represent 44% of Boston and 47% have received their first vaccine dose.
Cotterell and Bishop Borders spoke proudly about opening up the sites in Mattapan and Dorchester. Codman and BMC offers the vaccine at Russell Auditorium at 70 Talbot Avenue, and BMC’s site with Mattapan Community Health Center is at Morning Star Baptist Church at 1257 Blue Hill Avenue in Mattapan.
The importance of these vaccines in Boston’s hardest hit neighborhoods cannot be overstated, and is truly the key to getting to the end of this pandemic. “The quicker we get people vaccinated, the sooner we are heading in the right direction,” Cotterell explained. Borders added:”To be part of the healing process is very important.”
You can watch the episode here.