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By: Stan A McLaren, MBA, President & CEO

Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center (HSNHC) is part of the frontlines that continues to face the greatest health threat of our generation - the Coronavirus Pandemic rages on across the country. From the onset of this crisis, Harvard Street prepared for the worst. The Pandemic has caused unprecedented strains on the healthcare delivery system, from a shortage of testing and medical supplies to the fact that COVID-19 disproportionately affects the population served by the HSNHC. Not only has COVID-19 brought forth misery and death, but it has also exposed many of the inequities that affect the patients we serve in our health center each day. This disease is a Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) Disease. Poverty, food insecurity, access to housing, etc. are all SDoH that can have a considerable effect on COVID-19 outcomes.

According to Dr. Christopher Zimmerman, medical director at HSNHC, “The impact of the Pandemic has been wide-ranging and will likely continue to impact care and operations at HSNHC as well as other health centers.”

Throughout our history, HSNHC has stayed committed to providing quality care to some of the most vulnerable populations in Boston. This unprecedented environment is no different. Our actions during this Pandemic are essential to serving our community and stopping the spread of this disease. What I’m most proud of is how the Harvard Street Family met this challenge. Our clinicians and staff courageously and selflessly worked to provide care to our patients.

As we advance during these uncertain times, we will face many challenges - like the uncertainty in funding at the federal level and budget shortfalls at the state level. Despite these challenges, our shared vision with the community calls for the building of a new facility that would bring increased access to quality care and economic revitalization to this neighborhood. Growth and opportunities will be top of mind as we expand our Behavioral health services, add programs, and increase our capacity in our Ophthalmology Department. As we work with the Board of Directors and with the support of the community, our health center is well-positioned to meet our goals and support our employees, patients, and community.

The community we serve has been disproportionally affected by Covid-19 in a multitude of ways. At the beginning of the summer, HSNHC recognized the importance of getting our community tested for Covid-19. In July, a mobilized team was formed to administer tests in the city at various locations. We collaborated with Children's Services of Roxbury for a Direct Relief grant and established Testing Tuesdays at their Dudley Street and other locations. We also partner with local organizations including Prince Hall Grand Lodge every Thursday, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute & area churches, Franklin Park Zoo, and local schools to achieve this goal and expand our testing. HSNHC’s Covid Mobile Testing Team travels weekly throughout the community giving everyone an opportunity to have a Covid-19 test. Since the creation of this team, HSNHC has tested thousands of patients, while providing a safe and socially distanced testing environment - Ensuring that we are doing our part to keep our community and its residents safe. One client who recently received a COVID test stated in a note to the health center: “My husband and I had a test at Morning Star Baptist Church. We had a great experience and found the Harvard Street process very efficient,” said Margaret Reid, RN, MPA. "We were thrilled that we got our results fast. Thank you, Harvard Street, for working with Morning Star to make testing really available and accessible in our neighborhoods.”

Concerned about your safety and that of your family when visiting your dental office?

Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center’s Dental Office has invested in a new mobile HEPA/SAS System. Operating through a high-grade air suction, which protects patients from aerosol air droplets – this system reduces the hazards to the patient and dental team as a result of the high-grade air suction mechanism.

As explained by Dr. Mohammad Majeed of HSNHC’s Dental Department, “In June of 2020, we began using this new HEPA/SAS system for our surgical procedures and dental appointments to reduce the hazards of aerosol through high-grade air suction. Our number one goal is to provide patients with a sense of security that makes it easier for them to return to the dentist and to know that their health is our main concern. It’s very important for people to maintain their dental hygiene.”

HSNHC is one of the first health centers in Boston to offer the HEPA/SAS System which will soon be required by the ADA, DPH and CDC in all dental offices. “The great aspect about this machine is that it’s portable which will also allow us to provide Mobile Dental care at each of our operatory. We want everyone to know that we are taking every precaution to keep patients safe and we encourage our patients and others to schedule an appointment.”

This summer, enjoy the beauty of Boston Lights, an evening lantern experience at Franklin Park Zoo. Spanning the zoo’s 72 acres, Boston Lights will impress with more than 50 large scale displays comprised of hundreds of colorful lanterns. Featuring dramatic entrance arches, whimsical animal and ocean scenes, traditional Asian lanterns, and more, the whole experience will dazzle and delight.

Boston Lights will also shine a light on the importance of conserving the incredible biodiversity on our planet. From snow leopards to Panamanian golden frogs to the local Blanding’s turtles, each species plays a role in healthy ecosystems. Visitors to Boston Lights will have the opportunity to learn more about the zoo’s commitment to conservation and ways that they can participate in wildlife and habitat preservation. All of the lanterns are illuminated with energy saving LED lights.

The same health and safety measures in place for a daytime visit to the zoo are also in place for Boston Lights. These measures include advance online and timed ticketing for a designated day and time, guest capacity limits, one-way paths to control guest flow, clearly designated 6-foot distance markers, enhanced cleaning protocols, and more hand sanitizer stations throughout the zoo. In accordance with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, visitors (over age 2) to the zoo are required to wear face coverings.

Boston Lights: A Lantern Experience at Franklin Park Zoo opened on August 21 and will be open nightly through November 15th. The hours are 5:00pm to 10:30 p.m. Advance online ticket purchase is required at