The city will open two more COVID-19 testing sites at Brooklyn public housing complexes in an effort to help underprivileged communities that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday.
“One of the groups of New Yorkers who we’re most concerned [with] right now, who are bearing a lot of the brunt and have borne the brunt even before this crisis, is our public housing residents,” de Blasio said at his daily briefing on April 22. “We need to go there and help people more because it’s the morally right thing. It’s also crucial to any strategy to drive back this disease overall, to go where it’s having the biggest impact and cut it off in every way we can.”
Health officials with the city’s Health + Hospital system will offer free walk-in testing for the novel coronavirus at Cumberland Health Center in Fort Greene starting on April 24, and at Jonathan William Houses in Williamsburg later next week — which will help the city contain the virus that has devastated tenants of the New York City Housing Authority, de Blasio said.
“We refuse to continue this pattern, and this new plan will provide residents with the support they need to protect themselves and their families during this crisis,” Hizzoner said in a statement. “My promise to the New Yorkers who call NYCHA home: we will have your back, no matter what.”
The city will also open four more walk-in centers in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens in the coming days, in addition to a plan to distribute masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer to the city’s 400,000 public housing residents, de Blasio said.
In a $5 million partnership with telecommunications company T-Mobile, the city will also distribute 10,000 tablets with internet connection to NYCHA seniors to keep them connected in Brownsville, East New York, Red Hook, Bushwick, Coney Island, and the Bronx.
Walk-in testing for the highly-contagious respiratory disease opened at 13 sites around the city in the last two weeks, with three located in Brooklyn — and all of which focused on providing tests to vulnerable New Yorkers, such as those 65-years-of-age or older or those with pre-existing conditions.
These 13 facilities, in addition to the six new outposts, will shift testing from hospitals to community health centers, de Blasio said.
The new testing facilities followed criticism from Brooklynites that officials were opening drive-through facilities that weren’t accessible to New Yorkers who lack access to a car.
The city’s expansion of tests in the coming months will be crucial to lowering the infection rates, but Hizzoner said that additional supplies from the feds will be necessary to get to a point of low-level infection rates.
“Where we absolutely must have help is that testing, if we don’t have the quantities then all the other pieces don’t come together,” he said.
The wider-spread testing in the five boroughs was helped by out-of-state company Aria Diagnostics, which was slated to donate 50,000 test kits to the city, about half of which have arrived so far — and de Blasio hopes the remainder will follow “over the next couple of days,” the mayor said on Wednesday.
The city started buying an additional 50,000 kits from the company per week starting April 20 and plans to launch homegrown production some time in May, according to de Blasio.
Governor Andrew Cuomo on April 21 announced the goal to double the state’s daily testing rate from 20,000 to 40,000 by mid-May, after meeting with President Donald Trump. Cuomo said Trump committed to help the Empire State by procuring more testing supplies from China and other foreign manufacturers.
The six new testing facilities are:
Opening April 24:
Brooklyn: Cumberland Health Center, 100 N. Portland Ave.
Bronx: Belvis Health Center, 545 E. 142nd St.
Manhattan: Gouverneur Health Center, 227 Madison St.
Opening the week of April 27:
Brooklyn: Jonathan William Houses, 333 Roebling St.
Queens: Woodside Houses, 50-53 Newtown Rd.
Manhattan: St. Nicholas Houses, 281 W. 127th St.