Gov. Cuomo has quietly begun recruiting grocery stores in a bid to widen the state’s coronavirus testing program, The Post has learned.
Tests for the deadly bug — a key tool for pinpointing infection hotspots as officials look to ease lockdowns — are now being administered at an undisclosed number of supermarkets statewide as officials look to reach a larger swath of the Empire State’s population, officials confirmed.
Among those participating are several Fine Fare supermarkets in the Bronx and Brooklyn, each of which has administered upwards of 200 antibody tests a day inside the stores, said Rudy Fuertes, president of Fteley Food Corp., which operates 10 Fine Fare locations in the Big Apple.
The supermarket tests have been conducted quietly, with no announcement by the governor’s office, Fuertes told The Post.
“They don’t tell anyone they are doing that — otherwise we’d have lines through the kazoo,” said Fuertes, who says he tested positive for the virus but had no symptoms.
The antibody tests — first launched last month at hospitals for first responders, health care workers and hospital patients — started rolling out at Big Apple urgent-care clinics earlier this week. The governor has likewise cut red tape to begin testing at more than 5,000 independent drugstores statewide this weekend.
In the meantime, however, the state’s Department of Health also has been focusing on a random sampling of the population: people who shop and work at supermarkets.
State health workers are setting up shop at long tables inside the stores, administering tests that draw blood from five fingers. The results are sent directly to participants via e-mail or a phone call.
Other supermarkets across the state are also participating in the program, though a health official declined to identify those companies or the specific stores.
“The governor has talked about testing as one of the keys to reopening the state,” a department of health official said. “The supermarkets are the random testing piece” of this effort.
State officials said they have tested some 8,000 people over the past two weeks, including 3,000 random samples from the general population.
Fine Fare’s Fuertes believes about 30 percent of his employees tested positive for coronavirus based on the fact that nearly 100 percent of his managers in each store tested positive.
His stores in the Bronx at 1221 Fteley Avenue and at 459 E. 149th St. were testing sites last week. Testing sites also were set up at the Key Food in Williamsburg this week, also owned by Fteley.
Cuomo said this week that nearly a quarter of New York City residents have had coronavirus. Infection rates in Westchester and Rockland counties have run at 15.1 percent as of this week. Long Island had a 14.4 percent infection rate. Outside of those regions, the state average is 3.2 percent, officials said.
“The tests are bringing hope to our community,” Fuertes said.