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Tow truck drivers can now get free COVID-19 testing (MA)


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Coronavirus risks: Tow truck drivers can now get free COVID-19 testing at sites for first responders, but sanitizer, masks in short supply



Jason Battey, The heavy duty manager and driver at Red’s Towing, Recovery and Transport in West springfield. Before leaving he cleans his cab and after a pick up he will clean. Supplies are dwindling and they're difficult to get. (Douglas Hook / MassLive)


The Statewide Towing Association has expressed concern over the vulnerability of its members amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.


Drivers frequently come into contact with people without the protective equipment that other first responders have. But the organization has now received word that tow drivers have been given permission to receive the free COVID-19 testing at sites for first responders.


On Monday afternoon, Statewide Towing Association President Bill Johnson received notice from the Office of Public Safety saying that tow truck drivers with a Department of Public Utilities certificate and that are engaged in public authority towing are now able to go to the first responders testing sites.


The decision comes after an email was sent to Lt. Governor Karyn Polito.


“We are out here on the front lines and are the forgotten,” wrote Johnson. “I am sure you are busy, but I really did not know whom else to reach out to.”


The sites are located at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro and the Eastern States Exposition, home of the Big E, in West Springfield for testing if they show symptoms.


“I got confirmation yesterday afternoon,” said Johnson who has been working closely with state government officials. “We will be allowed to [be tested at the sites].”


Lt. Governor Polito didn’t comment directly on the decision but the Executive Office of Public Safety sent out a statement.


“As thousands of people are tested every day across the commonwealth, we are constantly assessing the demand, capacity, and capabilities of the priority testing sites in Foxborough and West Springfield,” said a spokesperson for EOPS.


Red’s Towing, Recovery and Transport in West Springfield covers the entire New England area, picking up stranded passengers that have had their vehicles fail, regardless of the weather, time of day or pandemic. However, the owner of Red’s, Gary Sheenan, has been increasingly concerned over the risks his staff are having to take on a daily basis.


The Statewide Towing Association was formed in 1970 by a handful of concerned towers to advocate for the Massachusetts towing industry. They have grown to represent 160 members across the state.


They have been able to supply 57 towing companies with masks, gloves and hand sanitizer who have asked for help on a case by case basis.


Red’s received two boxes of gloves, one box of 10 N95 masks and a bag of 10 bottles of hand sanitizer. This won’t last long with the daily pick-ups the drivers do and Sheenan has found it difficult to source this protective equipment from elsewhere.


“We’re pretty much left to fend for ourselves. Everywhere you go you can’t find anything you need,” said Red’s Operations Manager Ben Scott. “Even disinfecting the truck, the wipes are slim pickings.”


Sheenan expressed that he would buy masks, gloves and PPE tomorrow if he could but he can’t find it anywhere. He told MassLive that it’s all being bought up by the state for hospitals and other emergency services.



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