By Kristina Rex

CAMBRIDGE (CBS) – On one side, it’s a booster shot clinic. On the other, free COVID-19 testing. The third floor of the CambridgeSide Mall has been transformed into a COVID-19 clinic.

“When the demand is high, it’s because the numbers are going up as they are now,” explained Cambridge Fire Captain Jeremy Walsh. “Our numbers per hour are the highest they have been for the past year and a half.”

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Cambridge firefighters and paramedics run both the testing and vaccine clinics.

“No pain!” exclaimed Cecily Miller of Cambridge as she exited her booster appointment. “[The paramedic] was really friendly and supportive.”

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In the week leading up to Thanksgiving, the clinic did 1,400 COVID-19 tests in just 4 hours. Captain Walsh expects the demand for Christmas to be even higher.

On Monday, Governor Baker announced a program that will send more than two million free at-home rapid tests to cities and towns across the state to help people stay safe before holiday gatherings. Roughly 43,000 of those tests will go to Cambridge, with the rest going to about 100 other cities and towns.

Walsh is hopeful the free at home tests will help with demand at the clinic. “One thing we see a lot here is that some people come back week after week, so if you get more testing out there that’s available to people who can’t get this like we offer in Cambridge, it will definitely be a better option.”

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The Cambridge clinic is open Monday nights from 4-8 and Thursdays from 11-3. Vaccines are by appointment only, and testing is first come, first served.

Kristina Rex