City to take new approach to COVID-19 testing and treatment, focus on mobile sites

eric adams with sign for mobile covid testing
NYC Health+Hospitals plan to expand COVID-19 mobile testing sites and telehealth, shifting away from a focus on brick-and-mortar testing sites.
Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office.

Government leaders and New York City hospitals are taking a new approach to city testing and treatment for COVID-19, with the New York Department of Health and NYC Health+Hospitals transitioning from focusing on from brick and mortar COVID-19 testing sites to increased mobile testing and telehealth visits.

In June, Mayor Admas was joined with Dr. Ted Long, Senior Vice President of Ambulatory Care for New York City Health+Hospitals and Dr. Ashish Jha, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator, to announce the nation’s first mobile-based testing and treatment program. 

According to the mayor’s office, participating mobile testing sites managed by the NYC Test & Trace Corps will now have a clinician on site to provide prescriptions for antiviral medications to eligible New Yorkers who test positive. The program began with just three trial sites, but the city to expand to more than 30 units during the month of July.

people at covid-19 testing van
New York City is preparing to debut the nation’s first mobile COVID-19 Test to Treat program. Physicians at mobile testing sites will now be available to prescribe antivirals to eligible New Yorkers who test positive. Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

“New York City may have been at the epicenter of the pandemic at the start, but now we are leading the way in prevention and mitigation,” said Mayor Adams. “By getting life saving medications into the hands of New Yorkers minutes after they test positive, we are once again leading the nation to quickly deliver accessible care to those who need it. This mobile Test to Treat program will save lives today and [it] prepares us for future waves of this pandemic, keeping more New Yorkers safe and healthy.”

 Long explained some of the units will work in collaboration with local pharmacies while other units will be able to hand you the Paxlovid pills themselves directly from the mobile units.

“Our mantra in New York City throughout COVID has always been to meet every New Yorker where you are,” Long said. “Two years ago, we started to do this by creating a mobile testing fleet. We grew it, it soon became the largest in the country, and it was so successful we created a mobile vaccine fleet. Then after that, we created mobile units that enabled us to take special care of New Yorkers that were living with homelessness.”

Ahead of the transition, NYC Health+Hospitals will be closing some existing COVID-19 testing sites in mid-July. According to their webpage, solo testing locations in Borough Park, Bensonhurst, Bay Ridge, Midwood and Starret City will finish operations on July 16. 

The shift comes as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are spiking in New York City, with 15% of tests coming back positive and six deaths per day citywide, according to city data

According to H+H,“each closed brick and mortar testing site [has] several dedicated at-home test distribution sites with robust distribution capacity within 1 mile of the closed location.”

NYC Test & Trace Corps say this conversion will expand the number of sites available for New Yorkers to get tested and ensure fast, flexible, no-cost COVID-19 testing for all New Yorkers.

“This shift enables New Yorkers who test positive to be instantly connected to treatment, whether through 212-COVID19 for a positive at-home test or at one of our mobile units from our first-in-the-nation mobile Test to Treat model,” a representative for the department told Brooklyn Paper. “Now that we have a strong supply of at-home tests, which we know people prefer, and treatments, which we know save lives, that is what we are focused on putting in the hands of New Yorkers.”

Adding to new healthcare resources, Governor Hochul announced the launch of a free COVID-19 treatment hotline, administered by the state’s Department of Health. They will work in tandem with the NYC Health+Hospitals to utilize their Virtual ExpressCare platform. 

people wearing masks and t-shirts promoting the COVID-19 vaccine
New mobile Test and Treat sites will quickly test New Yorkers, and physicians on-site can prescribe medications for those eligible. The city is debuting will be the country’s first mobile-focused testing and treatment program. Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office.

All New Yorkers that test positive for COVID-19, including those who live outside the city, can call the respective hotline numbers to receive evaluation for treatment, regardless of income or health care coverage. They can also complete an evaluation via the ExpressCare Therapeutics Access website

“We’ve made real progress in our fight against COVID-19, but as new variants continue to spread it’s important to continue to adapt and expand our efforts to protect New Yorkers,” said Governor Hochul. “Our new COVID-19 treatment hotline will provide New Yorkers with better access to early treatments that help prevent severe illness.”

New York City residents can call the 24-hour hotline at 212-COVID-19. Licensed professionals with clinical training will be available seven days a week to prescribe treatment and referrals if needed.

Treatment can include a prescription for Paxlovid or Molnupiravir, oral antiviral medications authorized by the FDA and promoted by the CDC. According to NYC Health+Hospitals, these medications have been proven to “decrease hospitalization for those that are at risk for severe disease.”

“NYC Health + Hospitals is proud to partner with the Governor’s Office and the State Health Department to offer COVID-19 therapeutics to the entire state through our proven Virtual ExpressCare program,” said Dr. Mitchell Katz, President and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals. “Virtual ExpressCare has been a vital part of our strategy to ensure that everyone in New York City has access to the COVID-19 care and treatment they need, and it will bring the same expertise and commitment to all New Yorkers across the state.”

Learn more about COVID-19 treatment options at the New York health website.