Bruce C. Bolling Building COVID-19 testing center opens in Roxbury


Roxbury’s historic Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building is taking on a new role as a high-capacity COVID-19 testing center.Photo credit to Kathryn Manning.

Kathryn Manning, deputy city editor

Roxbury’s historic Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building is taking on a new role as a high-capacity COVID-19 testing center. Amid complaints of long wait times and lines of residents standing in the cold at nearby locations, Boston’s Public Health Commission is expanding testing options across the city.

On Jan. 18, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu held a press conference to officially open the Bolling Building Center and announce plans for other future sites. 

“Today we are celebrating another testing site that the Boston Public Health Commission has stood up to make sure that testing is accessible across all of our neighborhoods in Boston,” Wu said.

Open from 12-8 p.m., self-administered PCR tests are available at the Nubian Square location, with results typically available within 24 hours. The Bolling Building location also has the capacity to administer up to 20 COVID-19 tests at a time, in comparison to just 11 tests at the Anna M. Cole Community center in Jamaica Plain, Wu said.

The center comes from a partnership between the Boston Public Health Commission and Cambridge-based testing company CIC Health, a group that was also responsible for the mass vaccination site held at Fenway Park in February and March of 2021. CIC Health’s Chief Marketing and Experience Officer Rodrigo Martinez addressed the company’s goals for their testing centers in an email to The News. 

“CIC Health is proud to provide Boston residents with testing services to limit the spread of COVID-19. In collaboration with the Boston Public Health Commission, we have opened testing sites at Lilla Frederick Middle School, Jubilee Christian Church and Bruce C. Bolling Building,” Martinez wrote. “We look forward to continuing to support the community in the quest to address challenges brought on by the pandemic.”

As the Omicron variant sweeps across Boston, residents who visited testing centers in Jamaica Plain and Dorchester were asked to stand in line for hours to receive a COVID-19 test, placing a strain on residents and making it difficult to manage rising case numbers. 

“I’m so excited at the potential for this to be one more way to cut down the lines that we’ve been seeing across the city,” Wu said in the press conference.

Roxbury resident and President of the Roxbury Path Forward Neighborhood Association Lorraine Payne Wheeler saw similar issues and noted the convenience of the new center.

“[The Bolling testing center] is well-placed because it is very convenient to get to, you can get there on foot and with public transportation,” Wheeler said. “I think it was needed because we were seeing reports of people standing in a line for quite a long time waiting to get tested.”

However, the lines to get a COVID-19 test are not only reduced, but significantly diminished, with many of the testing stations at the Bolling Building left unused. A Jamaica Plain resident and Youth Workforce Program Manager for Madison Park Development Corporation, Yhinny Matos commented on the lack of crowds at the Bolling Building center while getting tested on a Friday afternoon. 

“Now that we have [the Bolling Building center], it’s such a shame that we have such a great resource that is empty,” Matos said.

Wheeler offered a different perspective on the lack of residents waiting for a test. 

“Even though you don’t see people at the center, I think it’s because you can get in and out of it in five minutes. It’s an efficient process,” she said.

Once three separate buildings, the Bruce C. Bolling Building was completed in 2015 using the historical elements of the former Waterman, Curtis and Ferdinand buildings. The updated space serves as the headquarters for Boston Public Schools and the Roxbury Innovation Center, a project created by United States Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. 

Now, the building’s latest use as a testing center has received praise among residents. Javiel Rios, who lives in the area and received a COVID-19 test in the Bolling Building, mentioned the timeliness of such a resource in light of rising COVID-19 cases.

“It’s helping the city because at the end of the day, there are a lot more cases coming up. The fact that just knowing the resource is here is really reassuring,” Rios said. “I’m surprised it’s open till 8 o’clock so it’s good that they have it later, especially for people [who] work.”

Matos expressed additional ideas that she believes the city could implement to further improve its testing procedures. 

“What I really thought about is that maybe we could have mobile vans, like stations for testing that go everywhere. I work with students [who] are court-involved and they might have geographical restrictions, so the vans could come to them,” she said. 

In addition to the Bolling Building center, Wu has also announced plans for two more testing locations in Dorchester and Mattapan that will open in the coming months.

With trends in COVID-19 cases changing rapidly, Boston is preparing itself for another outbreak and offering residents a variety of options to ensure the city stays healthy.

“[City officials] are responding to the needs that people have expressed,” Wheeler said. “At present I think they’re doing a good job in this community.”