As part of a complex plan aimed at restarting the economy, Northwell Health is working with public health officials to provide antibody testing to first-responders across Long Island and Westchester County, MTA transit workers as well as low-income and predominantly minority communities throughout the region to help identify and deliver care to those at highest risk of COVID-19.
Police, fire and EMS workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic are being offered free antibody testing through the Nassau and Suffolk departments of health. Northwell has already processed more than 2,500 antibody tests from Long Island first responders, and will begin offering testing to first-responders in Westchester County today (May 12). First responders can book appointments through each county’s department of health. In addition, Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care is finalizing an agreement with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to provide antibody testing to its transit workers. In mid-April, the MTA joined forces with Northwell Health-GoHealth to provide COVID-19 diagnostic testing to symptomatic transit workers at its 52 urgent care facilities throughout the metropolitan area.
“It’s imperative that we provide this critical testing to our front line heroes and the local communities that have been hardest hit by this,” said Dwayne Breining, MD, executive director, Northwell Health Labs. “We now have the capacity to handle thousands of antibody tests per day. This testing provides quick and reliable testing results which are crucial to understanding how the virus has spread and will be critical to opening up our economy.”
Antibodies are proteins that help fight off infections. Antibody blood tests show if people have had a previous infection with COVID-19. It’s unclear if those antibodies can protect people from getting infected again, but many who contract the virus had mild or no symptoms, so the test confirms whether they had the virus previously and also helps show the prevalence of COVID-19 within various communities.
In response to the higher prevalence of COVID-19 cases in low-income and minority communities, Northwell and the state Department of Health will begin offering antibody and diagnostic testing this Wednesday (May 13) at 24 churches in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, Manhattan, Staten Island, and Nassau and Westchester counties.
The free tests will be offered by appointment only this Wednesday through Sunday (May 17), and the following week from May 20-24. Diagnostic testing will be offered on different days from antibody testing to limit the exposure of patient populations. To find a location and make an appointment, call 833-4CARENY.
“One way we can protect our most vulnerable communities is by making testing more easily accessible in the communities that need them most,” said Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health. “The quicker we can expand access to testing in low-income communities, the quicker people can be diagnosed and isolated from family members and friends and reduce the risk of spreading the virus.”
Recently released data by New York State found a greater infection rate in communities of color, including a correlation between newly admitted patients hospitalized for COVID-19. Data shows that 20 of the 21 zip codes driving current patient admissions have greater than average African American and Latino populations. Two of the most impacted communities in Brooklyn and the Bronx revealed as communities of color are also lower-income and have a greater percentage of COVID-19 hospitalization and infections than New York City overall.
Besides the MTA, Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care is also providing access to testing for the New York State Police, New York City Police Department and New York City Fire Department. In addition, antibody testing will be provided to New York Racing Association employees at Belmont Racetrack.