Despite some confusion following its initial announcement yesterday, a new COVID-19 testing program coming to New Bedford is, in fact, 100 percent free.

On Wednesday, it was announced that New Bedford is one of the eight cities across the Commonwealth where the new program would be rolled out, beginning July 10 and running until August 14. Sen. Mark Montigny’s office released the information first, noting that “the Greater New Bedford Community Health Center and a roving van will be administering a new free, no-questions-asked COVID-19 testing program in New Bedford.”

However, some people who called the GNB Community Health Center for more information said they were told that if they arrived for testing and were symptomatic for COVID-19, there would be $198 fee associated with the test.

It appears, though, that there was just miscommunication.

“The test is free,” Jessica Prince, Chief Nursing and Clinical Operations Officer for the Greater New Bedford Community Health Center, told WBSM News. “Yesterday, patients were calling us and I think our nurses, trying to be thorough, were attempting to explain that yes, the test is free, but if you come in and something is wrong, if you need a chest x-ray or a nebulizer treatment, there is a charge for those interventions.”

Prince said a person coming in who is symptomatic can refuse care for those symptoms and choose not to incur any fees, and instead only take part in the free testing. If they do choose to receive the treatment, the $198 fee will be charged to their health insurance and the person would be responsible for any associated co-payment; if the person does not have insurance, they would be responsible for the fee in its entirety.

“We will work with them on that,” Michelle Kennedy of the GNB Community Health Center told WBSM News. “Nobody is going to have to pay that money up front in order to be tested.”

Once tested, it could take more than a week for the test results to come back.

“We use Quest Diagnostics, and right now, Quest is running seven days out. They are telling us that they’re focusing on Florida and Texas right now,” Prince said. Both of those states have seen major spikes in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.

Prince said that once the results are in, nurses from the GNB Community Health Center will call the person to let them know the results, but that the Community Health Center staff will also be printing up instructions to let those who are tested know how to download and use the Quest app in order to check on their test results on their own as well.

Prince also noted that the GNB Community Health Center does not operate a van, as mentioned in the press release, but that other healthcare providers in the area do and that the release may have been referring to a provider that had yet to officially sign on with the testing program.

Free testing at the Community Health Center under the new program will begin Friday and can be done by appointment or on a walk-in basis.

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