It’s still tough to get a coronavirus test in New York City, but it’s not impossible, even for those with just mild symptoms — and it’s only going to get easier.
Only 13,000 New Yorkers are getting coronavirus tests each week. But officials promise that number is going to go up exponentially.
Widespread testing will eventually allow officials to pinpoint infection hotspots and aggressively isolate the infected — crucial for easing the current lockdown.
But for now, first responders and essential workers still get priority diagnostic and anti-body testing at hospitals — and the easiest way for everyone else to get tested remains the worst way: to be hospitalized with serious COVID-19 symptoms.
Still, there are options. Walk-in medical clinics — including CityMD — are offering diagnostic and anti-body testing to the general public, as are an increasing number of private physicians.
No pharmacies in the city currently offer walk-in testing.
But on Saturday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo cut the red tape to allow the state’s 5,000 independent, non-chain drug stores to begin doing so, and industry reps say that testing will start coming online in the coming weeks.
“The chains aren’t really pulling their weight — but this has been a priority for the independent pharmacies for a long time,” said Michael Johnston, a spokesman for the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York.
The society is working with the state department of health on the nuts and bolts of stocking testing materials and keeping COVID-19-infected test-seekers safely apart from the rest of the pharmacy customers.
FDA-approved anti-body tests will also be available at independent pharmacies, said Roger Paganelli, a past Pharmacists Society president who co-owns Mount Carmel Pharmacy in Little Italy in The Bronx.
“We are speaking with the governor’s staff at the department of health on a daily basis,” Paganelli said.
The future of testing looks promising. Hospital-based screening, city-run public housing programs, and walk-in testing at clinics and pharmacies are all in the pipeline, officials say.
Meanwhile, self-swab tests will become more widely available in the coming weeks.
“Testing is how we get out of widespread transmission of the coronavirus, and on to the next phase, where we can start to get back to life as normal,” Mayor de Blasio said Thursday.
Four city hospitals — Montefiore Medical Center in The Bronx, SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, and the city-run Bellevue and Elmhurst hospitals in Manhattan and Queens — began offering antibody testing for front line healthcare workers this week.
Diagnostic tests are also being offered at city-run hospitals and at NYCHA sites in all five boroughs.
The city testing program gives priority to housing project residents over age 65 and who have pre-existing conditions.
Last week, three locations came online: Cumberland Health Center in Crown Heights, Belvis Health Center in Mott Haven and Gouverneur Health Center on the Lower East Side.
This week, three more locations started testing: Jonathan Williams Houses in Williamsburg, Woodside Houses in Woodside and St. Nicholas Houses in Harlem.