Shuttered Coney Island COVID-19 testing site reopens

Coney Island’s first COVID-19 testing site at the Ida G. Israel Community Health Center reopened on May 2.
REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

City health officials reopened a Coney Island COVID-19 testing site on May 2 more than one month after closing the center because of a lack of protective equipment.  

The Ida G. Israel Community Health Center, located on West 19th Street near Surf Avenue, offers free tests to walk-in patients Monday through Saturday from 8 am to 4 pm. The site provides relief to west end residents who previously had to travel for free testing, said the district’s councilman.

“It is critically important to have this site for Coney Island residents,” said Councilman Mark Treyger, who worked with Congressman Hakeem Jeffries to reopen the location. “There is no path forward out of this crisis without testing.”

People age 65 or older or with pre-existing conditions are prioritized for testing. The center services walk-ins only — no appointment necessary — and offers language services for non-English speakers. 

The Ida G. Israel site, the first city-run testing site in southern Brooklyn, is one of four city-operated testing centers for at-risk patients in the borough. Brooklynites can visit city testing locations in East New York, Fort Greene, and Williamsburg, as well as at least eight additional government-operated sites across the city.  

The reopening of the Ida G. Israel testing site comes more than one month after the city shut down the center on March 20 the day after its opening.

At the time, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that a lack of protective gear and testing supplies compromised the safety of the public testing sites, and mandated that hospitals only test patients in need of immediate hospitalization. Following the change in protocol, the city halted its plans to open another testing center within MCU Park’s parking lot, which was already under construction.

City health officials reversed the strict testing policy in mid-April, and opened five testing centers in low-income, minority neighborhoods across the city in an effort to provide outreach to communities disproportionately impacted by the virus. Officials later opened three additional outposts in affected communities, and three more in public housing complexes. 

Public hospitals still only administer tests to employees and to hospitalized patients, according to Kayla Griffith, a spokeswoman for the city’s Health Department. But, as hospital admissions decline, they plan to begin offering tests to people with COVID-19 symptoms in accordance with community testing guidelines, Griffith said.

Brooklynites can also access tests as private hospitals and walk-in clinics, although those services are not free. Pharmacies may also begin offering COVID-19 tests, since Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order on Saturday allowing the practice. Most insurance plans cover the cost of the test.