health

Here’s How NYC Residents Can Get Tested For Coronavirus on Staten Island

U.S. National Guard members walk out of a New York State-run coronavirus drive-thru testing facility in Staten Island’s South Beach neighborhood, March 19, 2020.
U.S. National Guard members walk out of a New York State-run coronavirus drive-thru testing facility in Staten Island’s South Beach neighborhood, March 19, 2020. Photo: Clifford Michel/THE CITY

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New York City residents can now get tested for coronavirus on Staten Island at a drive-through facility, one of five in the state, in the parking lot of the South Beach Psychiatric Center.

The site’s opening Thursday morning was welcomed in the borough, where the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has nearly doubled over the last two days, now totaling 165.

Neighbors took in the scene, watching National Guardsmen and women march in their usually quiet neighborhood as cars began to roll in. “We’ve seen things like this before with 9/11,” said Peter, 53, who declined to give his last name. “But this feels like something out of a movie.”

Three large white tents accommodate six cars at a time. State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos, who attended the Thursday opening, estimated the site could serve “hundreds” per day, with specimens dispatched to labs every two hours.

“So far, we’ve had really good success running patients and visitors through this operation,” said Seggos.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner Basil Seggos.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner Basil Seggos. Photo: Clifford Michel/THE CITY

New Yorkers who’d like to be tested must first call the state Department of Health’s coronavirus hotline, at 888-364-3065, to explain their symptoms. If the phone screening finds an individual eligible for testing, the department will call back with an appointment time.

At other sites around the state, visitors have been able to wrap up their test within 15 minutes, according to a spokesperson with the governor’s office.

Workers with white hazmat suits take nasal and throat swabs to collect cells from deep in the nose cavity before sending samples to private labs.

Those tested should receive test results in two to three days.

State workers set up the 30-by-40-foot tents Wednesday, provided by Staten Island University Hospital/Northwell Health, along with portable toilets.

Esmer Mujaj, a 26-year-old law student who lives near the test site, welcomed the new neighbor, National Guard and all. “Right now, I have a cough so this would’ve been good for me,” he said. “It’ll give people a peace of mind.”

Far Fewer on Ferry

Staten Island, the only borough with no public hospitals, has been brought to a standstill along with the rest of New York City and much of the nation, as shutdowns to promote social distancing take hold.

The number of morning rush hour riders on the Staten Island Ferry, the borough’s crucial link to Manhattan, was down 72% on Monday from the same date a year earlier, while 1,000 fewer riders than on Monday took the ferry during morning rush hour on Tuesday.

Overall on Monday, ridership was down 39% from a year earlier.

On Thursday afternoon, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that Staten Island had 165 known COVID-19 cases, out of 3,615 citywide. Increased testing is bound to drive those numbers sharply upward in coming days, public health authorities said.

A spokesperson for the city’s Office of Emergency Management said that the city is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to put up five of its own drive-through test sites throughout the city.

The state Department of Environmental Conservationset up the testing facility on Wednesday morning, with help from the National Guard.

Oleg Malikin, who lives down the block from the test site, was relieved to learn that the state is building out a drive-through test site.

“I think it’s worse than we’re seeing. The numbers are going up every day,” Malikin said Wednesday of the pervasiveness of viral infections. “We need this to prevent this from getting worse.”

After speaking with his wife about the new arrival in the neighborhood, he asked: “Can we go now?”

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