Uninsured New Yorkers suffer elimination of free COVID tests on streets and vans

Uninsured New Yorkers suffer elimination of free COVID tests on streets and vans

Photo: Edwin Martinez / Impremedia

At the beginning of the year, at the peak of COVID infections in the Big Apple, due to the omicron variant, where more than 50,000 positive cases were reported in a single day, seeing long lines of New Yorkers waiting for hours at sidewalk stands and vans offering antigen and PCR tests, totally free, they became part of the landscape in all five boroughs.

And although the city currently has a percentage of infections greater than 8.55% and a medium alert level, New Yorkers like Aida Hernandez have been surprised that the vast majority of street testing sites no longer offer the free COVID test.

Now the rule is to pay figures that range between $100 and $300, unless whoever requires the proof can present a health insurance card, and documents that certify that they live in the Big Apple. Tourists have to pay.

“A few days ago I started to have symptoms: dry cough, headache and loss of smell, so I came to the Steinway stand where they have always done the tests for free and now I find that they can no longer test me without pay and they tell me that I have to have medical insurance”, commented the frustrated 47-year-old Colombian, who claimed to have neither the money nor the insurance for the test, so he had to go home without knowing if he had COVID or not.

And it is that as revealed by one of the medical assistants who takes tests in one of the booths on the populous avenue in Astoria, Queens, the order for several weeks is that whoever does not have medical insurance that covers the test, put your hand in your pocket.

“It is that the Government is no longer paying these companies for the tests we do, so there is no other option but to charge. In addition, we also saw that there were many tourists who wanted to have the test to travel for free, and that is why we also we are asking for any document or identification that he lives in the United States,” the woman said.

Francis Gomez, who went to one of the vans that parked near the Steinway subway entrance found the same news and regretted that people like him, without resources to pay for a test or health insurance, can now have the benefit of accessing this type of rapid tests, which helped contain the rise of the virus in the winter.

“I know that cases have dropped a lot compared to January and February, but the COVID has not gone away, so it seems very worrying to me that they take away this free testing option from the poorest and most undocumented people,” said the Mexican, adding that in these test posts they do not accept the passport of your country.

But in the middle of complaints from new yorkers Faced with this novelty, which removes the option of taking the test in any corner, since literally private providers deployed posts throughout the Big Apple, health authorities clarified what is happening and warned that free tests are not they have ended up in public places and hospitals.

“What is happening is the result of a federal problem, because Congress no longer provided these emergency funds and some service providers are now charging for the tests, since the federal government no longer reimburses those providers for those services. ”, commented in dialogue with El Diario el New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan.

New York City Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan

The Adams Administration official, however, reiterated that the Big Apple is completely ready to carry out the necessary tests at no cost and invited them to approach public hospitals or call to line 311 to find out about free testing locations and can also request test kits that will be sent home.

“At all City sites and Health and Hospitals hospitals we continue to do daily tests totally free and we do not ask for documentation or immigration status. So we are ready to help whoever wants to know if they have COVID and if that is the case we can supply them with medicine, ” Vasan added. “I want to emphasize that these free tests are for all New Yorkers from all over the city and also for tourists. You can go anywhere in this city, without documents and without charge, and there are places to take home tests and they are also free. We are prepared to do all the tests that people need.”

The Department of Health reiterated that It is the City’s commitment to do free tests regardless of whether or not they have health insurance and without asking immigration status. These tests are offered through personal physicians, pharmacies, municipal government locations, including DOHMH mobile testing units.

NYC Test + Trace assured that it has distributed more than 16.5 million home tests to New Yorkers over the past month and more than 33 million tests since last Januaryto help keep New Yorkers home when they are infected.

Uninsured New Yorkers suffer elimination of free COVID tests on streets and vans

Where to get free tests in New York City?

  • COVID-19: Express Testing: You can make an appointment at one of the Department of Health’s free Express testing locations, which typically return test results within a few hours.
  • NYC Health + Hospitals Testing Sites – These locations offer free testing, including some sites that will test children ages 2 and younger. Here you can get more information on how to locate the nearest places
  • Citywide COVID-19 Information Portal: Testing Locations: You can view a map of all available testing locations, including some that may not be free.
  • The Department of Health delivers home tests to the homes of New Yorkers. You can get free at-home rapid antigen tests at museums, zoos, libraries, and other places in New York City. Many of these sites also offer free face masks. To find a location near you, visit NYC At-Home COVID-19 Test Kit Pickup.
  • You can also get home tests in the mail. Every household in the US can receive two sets of four rapid home antigen tests, regardless of immigration status.
  • To apply for free testing, or for more information: Visit COVIDtests.gov (available in English, Spanish, and Chinese), or Call 800-232-0233 (TTY: 888-720-7489; multiple languages ​​available). The only personal information you will need to provide to get tested is your name and mailing address. You can also choose to track your order by providing an email address.

COVID-19 in New York in numbers

  • Medium is the current alert level in the Big Apple
  • 8.55% is the percentage of current positive cases
  • 2,891 daily cases show reported tests
  • 64 daily COVID-related hospitalizations have on average each day
  • 5 are the daily deaths from COVID currently
  • 7,312,971 New Yorkers, equal to 87.7% of the entire population, have at least one dose of the vaccine
  • 6,570,286 New Yorkers, that is, 78.8%, have a complete vaccine schedule
  • 3,240,004, that is, 38.9%, have the booster dose
  • $100-$300 can cost for a COVID test with some private providers
  • 311 is the line to call for free home COVID testing