8 months after the virus was infected, an ominous sign: long lines to get tested again

New Yorkers stood for hours in long lines to test the coronavirus on Friday, a troubling indicator that illustrates the underlying public health challenges the country continues to face many months after the pandemic first surfaced.

People wait for the tests they need for work or school. Some fear they may have contracted the disease after the mockery of social distancing during the post-election celebration. Others hope to visit family safely over Thanksgiving, indicating that the problem may only worsen during the upcoming holidays. And some, discouraged by the prospect of staying on sidewalks for more than three hours in the rain, walked away without testing.

“It’s very frustrating,” said City Councilor Mark Levine of Manhattan, who chairs the council’s health committee. “We continue to encounter new problems in the tests. We are solving one by one window.”

The lines and growing demand for testing underscore how the second wave of the virus threatens New York City, and it comes as the rest of the country faces record numbers of new cases – more than 160,000 nationally on Thursday. Several conservatives have warned that they are seriously considering more restrictions in A. Last try To reduce the outbreak.

California, Oregon and Washington state governors have urged their residents to avoid unnecessary travel between states in the coming days. In Utah, which has also set a state record, Gov. Gary Herbert mandated the use of a statewide mask this week and asked residents to limit informal social gatherings to families.

In Illinois, which saw more than 80,000 new cases last week, Goff said. JB Pritzker has warned that the state may soon enforce the stay-at-home order.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that it is very likely the city will have to shut down the school system, the largest in the country, with 1.1 million children, because the city’s seven-day test-positive rate will soon reach 3 percent. .

In Washington, President Trump has appeared for the first time to discuss the outbreak since the election, and has spoken about the possibility that coronavirus vaccines will be widely available by spring. He also deepened his animosity with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, threatens to withhold a vaccine from New York State due to Mr. Cuomo’s criticism of the administration’s vaccine distribution plan.

It was not immediately clear what impact it would have, given that Mr Trump will leave office on January 20. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is a close ally of Mr. Cuomo and will likely place a different place. Distribution plan.

By all accounts, even if all goes well, the vaccines are still months away. For now, a great deal of attention is focused on testing the problems, which have threatened to delay results and impede efforts to control the spread of the virus.

Officials said New York City conducted a record number of tests on Thursday, more than 74,000. Across the country, nearly 1.5 million people are tested daily. According to the Covid Tracking Project Almost double the number in August, and much more than during the first wave of the epidemic in the spring, when capacity was much lower.

Public health systems across the country are once again strained by the need for testing. Some regions face a looming shortage of laboratory capacity. In other areas, such as New York City, clinics and other testing sites are crowded with massive numbers of people seeking to get tested.

“Spring is getting smaller compared to what we’re seeing now,” said Carissa Colbreith. Medical director and chief of infectious diseases at TriCore Laboratories in New Mexico, where the cases are at recent days.

In recent months, millions of tests have become available to Americans, but demand has grown faster.

“We cannot continue to conduct more tests on this epidemic without more strategy,” said Dr. Colbraith.

Dr. Colbraith said that from March to October, her team conducted half a million more diagnostic tests than usual for their facilities, in a relentless attempt to keep up with the epidemic while continuing to test for viruses and other infectious bacteria that still infect patients.

This week, the American Medical Laboratory Association, which represents large commercial laboratories, such as Quest Diagnostics, that have borne much of the burden of testing for the Corona virus, warned Response times to results may also take longer.

The group said its member laboratories carried out nearly half a million virus tests on Wednesday and were short of pipette tips and other testing basics.

“The labs have made it a success,” said Dr. Patrick Goodby, president of the College of American Pathologists and director of twolabs in Georgia. Pathologists and laboratory scientists made heroic efforts to answer the call. But the demand has not decreased, and now the numbers are rising again. You see it now in Illinois, in Wisconsin. “

In Washington state, Providence Health and Services, which operates a test site by driving near Olympia with Thurston County, was forced to turn motorists away when more than 200 cars lined up for tests on Monday, according to the healthcare provider. He said in a statement. In Denver, test sites have been reported Long hours waiting.

In the face of mounting complaints, city and state officials in New York have tried to minimize delays, saying people can get tests if they search.

Gareth Rhodes, a member of Mr Cuomo’s Coronavirus Task Force, defended the state’s performance and cited the number of testing sites statewide, around 1,200.

There are more than 400 of these locations in New York City alone. He said that some sites are operating at less than capacity.

For people who are afraid of long lines, Mr. Rhodes recommends calling in advance or making an appointment. That way, he said, “People don’t have to wait at all.”

Dr Andrew Wallach, a senior official with the city’s testing and tracking program, said people can often get tested quickly in tents outside public hospitals, or at other sites run by the city.

“Most people get in and out within an hour or so,” said Dr. Wallach.

Many New Yorkers still find it not so easy.

New York City has for months ramped up its progress in improving testing, but this week the lines showed that the public health architecture is still struggling to handle the outbreak.

Sample collection should be the easiest part of the process, given the demand for testing.

The government has largely relied on existing urgent care clinics, such as the CityMD network, to do most of the sample collection. But there simply aren’t enough collection sites to keep up.

CityMD spokeswoman Joy Lee Kallio, which has more than 130 clinics in the New York City area, said the number of visits, most of them related to the coronavirus, has jumped 25 percent over the past several weeks.

In fact, long lines are pushing CityMD clinics to start shutting down 90 minutes earlier than usual in an effort to keep employees from working until late at night.

“Site staff and doctors have been seeing patients after their usual shutdown time for months, and we’ve come to the point where they sacrifice their safety and health,” the company wrote in an email to patients on Friday.

Kaliu told me CityMD is collecting samples from about 15,000 coronavirus tests per day across its sites – more than half of them in its five boroughs.

Government-run test sites in New York waited, but were often somewhat shorter.

At a test site under a large white tent in front of a public housing complex in Harlem, the line didn’t extend far in the middle of the day.

Josh Finn, 31, who after 20 minutes was at the front of an eight-person class, said: “I specifically avoided going to CityMD because the lines don’t move there.

He showed no symptoms, but he decided to take the test because his roommates were hanging out with someone who had recently been exposed to the virus.

But for many, the problem was just getting into the clinic.

At 10 a.m., Avi Weinstein, 31, was waiting in line under light rain on West 88th Street in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, slowly advancing toward CityMD Urgent Care Center where he hoped to take the test. “I’ve been here for an hour and a half,” said Mr. Weinstein.

He said he had a fever the night before and was worried he might contract while celebrating the election results last week with friends.

He said, “I was expecting a long line, but not that long.”

The streak will grow longer during the morning, with some people waiting nearly three hours before reaching the clinic door.

“We want to see our grandchildren on Thanksgiving Day,” said Erica Eisinger, 76, who was waiting with her husband, Peter. “Hopefully this will happen if everyone’s test results are negative.”

At CityMDs across New York, the scene was the same: long lines, varying levels of frustration and bewilderment over why a timely and appropriate virus test could be a multi-month struggle in the pandemic.

In Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York University law student, Arjun Mosherla, waited outside CityMD for nearly an hour, advancing perhaps 15 feet in line socially distant. Mr. Mochirla, 26, had been tested through university in the past.

“This is my first streak,” he said. “I’m starting to really regret it.”

Then someone told him that the wait could be four hours. I left.

Elisha Brown and Matthew Sidaka contributed reporting.

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