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State program will outfit office buildings with COVID-19 testing

New state program to outfit office buildings like MetroTech with on-site COVID testing

COVID-19 testing
A health care worker swabs a member of the press during check-in for a press event at the Barclays Center.
REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

As the vaccine rollout continues and the state’s leadership looks to get life back to normal, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday announced a partnership with real estate developers to bring COVID-19 testing straight into office buildings across the city and state.

The “New York Forward COVID-Safe Offices” plan is a built off of the New York Forward Rapid Test Program, according to the governor, who hailed the partnership as the key to safely reopening the economy.

“From the beginning of the pandemic, New York has always said that our recovery is not a choice between public health and the economy — it has to be both — and with this partnership we are demonstrating just how effectively we can accomplish our goals,” he said in a March 19 release.

Eight landlords representing more than 100 million square feet of commercial office space in New York City have already committed to the program, including Brookfield Properties — the real estate firm which manages more than a dozen office Brooklyn buildings and much of the MetroTech Center business corridor, the governor said.

Other participating New York City developers so far include L&L Holding Company, Related Companies, RXR Realty, Rudin Management Company, SL Green Realty Corp., Tishman Speyer and Vornado.

Participants — which include an additional 13 landlords in upstate New York — must provide space and facilitate access to services for tenants interested in conducting regular diagnostic COVID-19 testing of their employees, Cuomo said.

“This new partnership with major commercial real estate companies is the next step in reinvigorating our urban cores and commercial offices, supporting state and regional economies,” the governor said. “Improved access to testing will further drive New York State’s economic recovery by encouraging employers and employees to safely return to work using science and data to guide their decisions.”

Cuomo’s announcement comes as restaurants dive back into indoor dining, and movie theaters, music venues, sports stadiums, amusement parks, and more plan for limited-capacity reopening.

The news also comes just two days after the state expanded COVID-19 vaccine eligibility. As of March 17, public-facing government and public employees, select not-for-profit workers and other essential in-person public-facing building service workers now qualify for the COVID-19 vaccine.

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for further information on the project’s timeline, and when employees and employers can expect to see on-site testing.

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