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What happened to testing in NYC?

December 18, 2021 pm31 11:24 pm

I got shut out of two free testing sites yesterday. I may not have been alone.

I arrived at the end of the line at North Central Bronx Hospital at 3:45. I’ve walked over there a bunch of times. This was the longest I’d seen the line – out the door and all the way to the corner. But it was 3:45, and they close at 4:30. So I was safe. Not. A woman came out to say that the line was closed, that the guy in front of me was last. “Just one more?” “No.” Another guy walked up, same story. I thought maybe numbers would help “just the two of us, can you ask?” “No.” and the other guy walked away, wasn’t going to join me – and I was wrong – I didn’t like being shut out, but it was not the woman’s call.

I played with my phone, wanting to see what Health and Hospitals said about North Central, but – score! – I found a mobile site in St James Park (just below Kingsbridge) – both PCR and rapid tests (I like PCR) and open until 7! So I walked over. (as an aside, my feet have been hurting, various ailments, but yesterday they felt fine). Half an hour later I got on the end of a longish line. It was still daylight, and yesterday was mild. The line moved, slowly, maybe 3 – 5 people forward, then pause. We slowly advanced towards the van. Half an hour passed, an hour. The conversations near me were about 2/3 Spanish, 1/3 English. Daylight faded. I heard that they were only giving rapids. Fine. I was too far in to complain. The van was closing after every few people tested so they could “work.” A woman came out and said something to people further back. The line cleared a bit. There were maybe 12 people in front of me. It was getting cold. I zipped all the way up, flipped my collar. We needed to register – there was a QR code I should have scanned, on the sign by the van. I walked up and tried to scan, but my shadow was in the way. “N’importa” – I was glad I recognized the word. The line advanced – just three people in front of me, and the door shut again. Now I was eavesdropping out of boredom, and to practice my comprehension. The guy was first, and he did not know the two women behind them, but they were chatting. He worked on the ramp at JFK and LGA for a major airline, and was telling them that they were hiring, and some details of the job. It was just after 6PM. The van opened. “Listen carefully, we only have one test left.” What? What? “We thought we had another box of tests. We do not. We reopen at 8AM.” “There is an open site at 149th Street and _________” (I wasn’t paying attention).  I stood there, stunned. But the guy advanced to use that last test, and the rest of the crowd/line just melted away. I didn’t move, wondering what would happen next, when I should have known the answer: Nothing. I said in the general direction of the woman still standing behind me, my neighbor for the previous hour and a half, with whom I had not exchanged a single word (though we saved each other’s places in line) – I said in her general direction “how did this happen? This isn’t right” at which point she burst into tears and showed me her phone – an Uber to the other site would cost her $30. What could she do? I tried to imagine the backstory – she desperately needed the result for Saturday – for a trip or a visit or an interview – and she didn’t have cash to buy one from a drug store, or could not find one. I nodded my head sadly. I should have tried to help her call down there, to make sure they had not run out as well.

We are in a health emergency, and tests should be widely available. Running out of capacity at one site and supplies at another represent small breakdowns – but repeated breakdowns make a pattern – a scary one.

We know from the schools that the City has been limiting testing as much as possible. Breakthroughs happen among the vaccinated, but testing does not. Adults have extra hoops to get through before they can get a test – and even then very few adults are tested in school. Most students get skipped.

The City, de Blasio, doesn’t like testing because it hurts the stats on sick people. But testing is needed to limit (not stop, unfortunately) the spread. Lots of testing is needed.

The City needs to make widely available testing a priority. And it has clearly not done so so far.


COVID-19 testing lines grow around the city


Omicron fears spark long lines, short supplies for COVID testing in NYC

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