Lawmakers call for testing at East Flatbush medical center

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Elected officials are calling for more coronavirus testing throughout the borough.
Photo by Todd Maisel

A group of 23 Brooklyn lawmakers are calling on the federal government to expand testing options for the novel coronavirus in Kings County by allowing for testing at the SUNY Downstate Medical Center in East Flatbush. 

In a letter to the Centers for Disease Control, the lawmakers wrote that the facility is prepared to move forward with testing as soon as they receive the proper gadgets — namely a Cobas 6800 testing machine.

“New York is now the epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak and we are well behind where we need to be on testing,” said State Senator Zellnor Myrie who penned the letter along with Assemblywoman Diana Richardson. “In the midst of a public health crisis, the fact that we are unable to leverage Brooklyn’s flagship teaching hospital is unacceptable.” 

Myrie, who represents Crown Heights, and Richardson, who represents Flatbush, were joined on the letter by Brooklyn’s state senate and congressional delegation.  

The proper equipment at SUNY Downstate would allow over 1,500 tests per day to be conducted in Brooklyn, with the city currently able to test around 5,000 patients a day.

While Brooklyn currently has the most confirmed cases out of the five boroughs, its only existing dedicated testing centers are in Coney Island. Due to the high volume of cases and Kings County’s status as the most populous borough, lawmakers said the need for additional testing capacity was particularly urgent. 

“Brooklyn is the largest borough in New York City with over 2.6 million residents — and many of them with high rates of asthma, diabetes and other conditions that put them in higher-risk categories,” the letter reads. 

In a statement, the president of SUNY Downstate said the medical center is prepped and ready to start testing, but that it would not be able to meet the demand without the proper machinery. 

“[University Hospital of Brooklyn] is prepped and ready to go. However, we are unable to conduct tests without the Roche Diagnostics Cobas 68000 testing machine, and the Cobas SARS CoV-2 test, which has only been allocated to a few laboratories,” said Dr. Wayne J. Riley. “Without this critical equipment and accompanying tests, UHB cannot meet the demand for testing through commercial labs.”