How will de Blasio, NYC shorten long COVID testing lines?

Local News

NEW YORK — On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged a fact that many New Yorkers have seen firsthand in the last several days: lines for COVID testing citywide are too long.

De Blasio announced new measures to help ensure that lines shorten, and said private providers of COVID tests who have contracts with the city will be more closely monitored.

Though omicron has spread rapidly through the city in a short amount of time, the mayor’s medical leadership said the current wave of COVID is likely to increase through the middle of next month before tapering off.

The line for testing at Barclays Center on Monday afternoon extended across the plaza in front of it, and halfway down the block. Still, it was less than half the length it had been over the weekend.

Gwen Veridze said that she’d been waiting for half an hour when she spoke with PIX11 News.  

“It doesn’t feel that long,” she said. She ended up having to be in line a total of two hours for a rapid COVID test.  

Wait times like that, said Mayor de Blasio, at his morning news conference, are too long. He announced that the city is increasing the number of vaccination sites that it operates. The number will be 112 by the end of the week, the mayor said.  

In the meantime, though, people waiting to get tested aren’t necessarily pleased. Maggie Tully was waiting for a PCR test in front of Barclays Center. 

“It could be better. It could be a lot better,” she said, and called for greater availability of home tests, also. 

The mayor said that the city is working with the federal government to make home tests more available. He also acknowledged that there are shortcomings at testing locations operated by the city, as well as those run by private companies.

“Starting today,” de Blasio said, “we’re sending out supervisors from Test and Trace Corps to all our private vendor test sites, to make sure we have another measure of accountability.”

The measure only applies to private testing operators who have contracts with the city, as opposed to the variety of testing companies operating in the city that don’t.  

Some of the people waiting in line said the city needs to do more to connect residents with testing sites.
Leon Isaacs said that a visual directive would be most helpful.

“Have a map… so people aren’t figuring it out,” he said, suggesting that it show “where there are the different areas testing for free.”

The city actually has a map, but it only lists city-operated or city-contracted sites, rather than the fully private COVID testing sites. Whether or not it is always up to date has sometime been in question. 

As far as the sites over which city supervisors will have purview, de Blasio’s medical leaders said that their oversight will result in a more stable and reliable system.  

They pointed to the fact that at sites run by the city’s Health and Hospitals, test results are usually reported within 24 hours, as opposed to private sites, where results can take 5 days or more to be available.

That kind of responsiveness, said Dr. Mitchell Katz, the CEO of Health and Hospitals, will be vital going forward. He said that he anticipates the current wave of COVID to keep increasing.

“It will probably get worse before it gets better in terms of number of infections,” Dr. Katz said, “but then we believe within mid-January, we’ll start to see cases leveling off and things return to our new normal.”

In that so-called new normal, Katz continued, will be CVOID-19 in some form, for which vaccinations and other treatments will be necessary in the years ahead.  

“Humans are very adaptable,” said Katz. “We will learn how to coexist with the COVID virus, just as we’ve learned to coexist with the virus that caused the 1918 Spanish flu. It still circulates. Humans have learned how to deal with it.”

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