Bringing testing to who needs it most

Apr 30, 2020
In The News

“The main message we all have to get around: We’re as strong as the weakest link when it comes to COVID-19,” Assemblymember Ron Kim (D-Flushing) said at the April 22 launch of the first mobile testing site in Queens. “Whether you’re unbanked, undocumented ... everyone needs to come out and trust the testing process and be part of our economy again. Without everyone being tested and being healthy there is no economy and we believe this is the model that’s right.”

The mobile site in Flushing will be the second in the city, following a Brooklyn center that was launched on April 8, and is spearheaded by the Coalition of Asian-American Independent Physicians Association. The model, which involves zero contact between testee and tester, mimics one implemented in South Korea, which reported its first COVID-19 case on Jan. 20, the same day the U.S. did, but has since reported nearly 94 percent fewer cases and 98 percent fewer deaths compared to New York City alone as of April 29.

Dr. George Liu, chairperson of CAIPA, described the model as “the best option for metropolitan cities” because it limits the risk of cross-contamination and spread that is present in the four other testing options — visiting an ER, primary care provider, testing tent or drive-through testing site. According to Liu, the workers are completely isolated inside the site and have no direct contact with the patient. More importantly, according to Kim, mobile sites offer testing to the most vulnerable populations that would otherwise not have the opportunity.

“This coronavirus pandemic has truly highlighted what most of us knew and many suspected: that there are true healthcare and institutional disparities that make it much harder for so many communities, including immigrant communities and communities of color, from accessing the healthcare that they need,” said Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), stating that the Trump administration has done little to help her bring testing and resources to Queens, which she said she has been asking for since late February. “Now New York and Queens is the heart of the epicenter ... We need to keep the pressure on the White House to make sure he is helping New York, his hometown of Queens, to make sure we have access to testing.”

In early April, Trump said that he hoped to reopen the economy by May 1, but state Sen. John Liu (D-Flushing) disputed the possibility at the time, believing the idea is unattainable until testing is ramped up.

“Testing is the number one thing that we need now in terms of getting back our economy and getting back to some semblance of normalcy,” Liu said. “[We need better coordination on] how to prepare the tests, how to get the materials for the tests and ultimately how to conduct these tests, especially in the communities that need it the most — especially the communities that have been devastated by COVID-19 and continue to be impacted by COVID-19 ... The testing is of paramount importance.”

In order to visit CAIPA’s mobile testing site, an individual would have to be screened by a primary care provider and fit the eligibility criteria, such as showing symptoms like fever, tiredness and dry cough. A referral will be sent to a CAIPA lab and a representative will call the patient to make an appointment. Alex Tang, the clinical director of CAIPA, said all patient records are protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and kept secure for undocumented patients.

“This virus causes tremendous losses, not only health-wise, but also economic-wise. I was saying that maybe half of the population has no jobs now, and this is all done by an invisible army, enemy we have,” said City Councilmember Peter Koo (D-Flushing). “If we want to open up our economy we have to first do testing and tracing and isolation, all those things.”

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