Dec. 20, 2021 By Allie Griffin
Queens Community Board 2 is calling on the city to add more COVID-19 test sites in Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside.
Community Board 2 leaders penned a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Mayor-elect Eric Adams Monday urging them to add more city-run sites in the western Queens neighborhoods they serve.
Residents have reported waiting on testing site lines for up to four hours and waiting several days for PCR test results.
“Community Board 2, Queens is writing to you to express the Board’s deep concern about the state of COVID-19 testing in our community and across the borough of Queens,” CB 2 Chairperson Morry Galonoy and CB 2 District Manager Debra Markell Kleinert wrote in the letter.
“With winter upon us and the arrival of another wave of infections, residents of the board district are being subjected to long waits of as much as four hours in cold temperatures for a COVID test.”
Their letter comes on the heels of multiple record-breaking days for the number of new COVID-19 cases in the city.
New York State reported 23,391 new cases Monday — the highest number in a single day since the pandemic began in March 2020. In the five boroughs alone, nearly 7,000 people are testing positive for COVID-19 each day based on the average of a seven-day period.
Experts believe the more contagious Omicron variant is playing a role in the skyrocketing cases. The variant accounts for at least 13 percent of NYC cases tested, according to the latest data.
Demand for testing is also up as people prepare to travel and gather with others for the upcoming holidays. More New Yorkers are getting tested than ever before during the pandemic. About 130,000-plus city residents are getting swabbed each day in city-run sites alone, according to the mayor.
The increase in demand follows a drop in the number of city-run test sites — which Queens Community Board 2 said was troubling. The city reportedly shuttered 20 city facilities last month ahead of the current surge in cases, according to an analysis by THE CITY.
“We are truly confounded that test sites would have been closed as we approached the colder months,” Galonoy and Markell Kleinert wrote. “… If there’s anything we’ve learned after nearly two years of this pandemic, it’s that with cold weather and holidays that bring travel, we get spikes and an increase in demand for testing.”
De Blasio, however, announced that the city is adding nearly two dozen testing sites this week. The city will bring 23 additional sites online this week on top of the 89 test sites now running. By the end of the week, there will be 112 city-run sites across the five boroughs — including both brick-and-mortar sites like those at public hospitals and mobile test sites.
“Getting tested is absolutely crucial [as is] making sure we have enough sites, enough resources, enough test kits,” de Blasio said at a morning press conference. “We’re working on all these fronts.”
It’s unclear if any of the new sites will be located in the communities covered by Queens Community Board 2. The mayor did not provide details as to where the 23 new sites will be located but said the city will utilize healthcare facilities, schools, libraries and community centers for the facilities.
The greater Long Island City- Astoria area had the tenth highest transmission level among New York City neighborhoods as of Monday. There have been 811 new cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days, according to city data.
Queens Community Board 2 also said that residents are concerned that the city has contracted testing sites — largely mobile sites — to private health companies. They said the sites run by private contractors have longer wait times and residents worry about giving their personal information to them.
“…[M]any of the City-run testing centers have closed and been replaced in our area by private contractors,” their letter states. “… Many of our constituents and neighbors worry about who is handling their information and where their personal and medical information is going.”
De Blasio said that supervisors from the city’s Test and Trace Corps will be visiting all its private-vendor test sites starting today as “another measure of accountability” — and to ensure that each site is properly staffed.
“We overall have had very good results from our test sites, including those run by vendors,” he said. “But we want to make sure we have our eyes on them every day to make sure there’s high quality and consistency and that the hours are as stated.”
The mayor, however, said another issue that is leading to greater wait times both to get a test and test results is a shortage of staffers and available test kits as the staff themselves come down with COVID-19.
He said he is working with the White House to get more supplies and has established a reserve of healthcare professionals in instances where test site staff call out sick.
“We’re going to be doing more to make sure there’s continuity, consistency, quality at the test sites,” de Blasio said. “But … we welcome the feedback from all New Yorkers to know how we can do better and we’re going to keep making adjustments and improvements every step along the way as we fight through this challenge.”