Coronavirus testing, process, procedure outlined by officials

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Photo courtesy: metrocreativeconnection.com

Friday marks one week since drive-thru testing for the coronavirus was made available to the residents of New Rochelle.  Since then, five additional sites have opened throughout the state including a facility at Jones Beach for Nassau County residents.

The criteria for testing, county health officials said, is changing by the day.  On Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the opening of the Jones Beach facility and said he hoped upwards of 6,000 of the county’s 1.4 million residents would be tested per day.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said that despite the newly-available testing methods a priority would still be deferred to first responders, people with underlying health issues, those who show symptoms, and those who have been in direct contact with a confirmed case.

County officials urged residents to follow the testing procedures if they believe their health is at risk and to schedule an appointment for testing.  Appointments must be made for residents to get tested.

The procedure begins by calling the New York State Novel Coronavirus Hotline at 1-888-364-3065.  Wait times may vary due to the number of calls the hotline receives throughout the day. Wait times can vary from anywhere between 15-45 minutes.

Once a representative has answered the line, they will proceed by asking the reason for the call and to have the caller relay any pertinent information.  The representative will then ask for the caller’s full name, date of birth, address, and contact number.

The representative will then convey to the caller that a personal file has been created in their database and health officials will reach out at some point in the near future to schedule a time to get tested.

Depending on the caller’s personal profile, drive-thru testing may not be the proper procedure, according to one representative.

“It really depends,” the representative said.  “State health officials comb through each profile and try to analyze what the best course of action is. It could be asking an individual to come into one of the hospital labs in the county, or simply a drive-thru appointment.”

Northwell Health began manual testing for the virus on March 5 and received permission to begin semiautomatic testing two days prior.

Northwell Health Senior Vice President and Chief Public Relations Officer Terrence Lynam said that the manual testing limited the number of patients who could be tested for the virus, “limiting testing to the severely ill, those who have had direct contact with confirmed or suspected patients, the elderly, those with immune diseases and pulmonary diseases, et cetera.”

With the authorization of semi-automatic testing, which greatly increases Northwell’s capabilities, the criteria will most likely be loosened, Lynam said.

Efforts to reach NYU Langone Health System and the Catholic Health Services of Long Island were unavailing.

According to officials, the testing consists of a brief swabbing of a person’s nose and throat.  Most of the time spent at the facility will be waiting and filling out the necessary paperwork, much like a trip to the doctor’s office for a physical.

Officials said the entire process takes roughly 10-15 minutes, the swabbing sample is sent back to a lab for the determination of its result.  Typically, officials said, results would not be sent back to an individual for at least “a few days.”

When asked how the public’s response to the procedure start to finish, one representative admitted many people call in scared or frustrated but have generally taken it well.

“There’s a mutual understanding of us knowing this is something nobody is used to,” one representative said. “Nobody likes to wait around not knowing what is happening, so there’s a sense of urgency on both ends.  Typically, there has been an encouraging response [from callers].”

Other Long Island testing facilities opened up at Stony Brook University and ProHEALTH Urgent Care in Jericho on Wednesday. 

The Stony Brook facility accommodates up to 1,000 tests per day and will be open 7 days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., officials said.

ProHealth officials said roughly 100 cars appeared at the center throughout Wednesday morning.  Their facility will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday; and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

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