NYC to open new testing sites in communities of color

Photo courtesy of the New York State Department of Health
Clinical specimen testing for novel coronavirus COVID-19 at New York State Department of Health’s Wadsworth Laboratory.

New York City will open four new COVID-19 testing locations in predominantly black and Latino communities after preliminary data released last week showed that COVID-19 is twice as fatal for black and Latino populations than it is for white people. 

“We not only need to understand it, we need to address it,” Gov. Cuomo said Thursday. “We are going to be doing more testing in these communities…and collecting the information that we need to come up with policies that will fix this. Where do they live and work? What is their socioeconomic status?”

Due to socioeconomic and environmental factors, black and Latino communities have historically lacked proper access to healthcare and are more likely to be uninsured or underinsured. This manifests in a trend of poorer health for these populations—including a higher likelihood of developing preventable diseases and higher mortality rates for cancer, diabetes and more—that the pandemic has exacerbated.

Testing sites at the South Bronx, Jamaica and Brownsville health centers will be opening this week, and a testing site in the Sears parking lot in Brooklyn opened on Friday. 

Cuomo also announced Thursday that the state saw its highest spike in deaths, with 799 people succumbing to the virus in a 24-hour period. However, officials say that the “real death toll” is much higher than what is being reported. Over the weekend, New York health officials recorded 783 deaths on Friday, 758 deaths on Saturday, and 671 deaths on Sunday.

The official data only counts those who died after being confirmed positive for the virus, and not the many who are dying at home without having been tested. Estimates place this number at about 200 people per day. The city’s health department announced Wednesday that it will work with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to begin including these suspected deaths in their reports.

Hospitalizations and ICU admissions are continuing to slow, suggesting that social distancing efforts to “flatten the curve” are working. Though the situation is improving, Cuomo warned people not to become hopeful that the PAUSE measures will be lifted anytime soon, citing reports that places like Wuhan and Singapore were hit with a second wave of outbreaks after lifting some social distancing measures.

“I know the instinct is, ‘This is good news, I can relax and get out of the house,’” Cuomo said. “But we are not out of the woods.”