COVID-19 testing options limited in rural parts of Central New York

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AUBURN, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — New York State is proof that efficiently testing a lot of people for coronavirus is one way to slow or stop its spread. While testing options may be easy to find in bigger cities like Syracuse, more rural parts of Central New York, like Cayuga County, are struggling to get enough testing capacity.

When it comes to coronavirus testing, it’s a tale of two counties. In Onondaga, teachers and students’ back to school testing was free. That’s also been the case for tests at the Syracuse Community Health Center.

However, in Cayuga County, it’s a different story.

Kathleen Cuddy, Cayuga County’s Health Director, said, “I think the resources are in the backyard at Onondaga County, you’ve got University Hospital, large healthcare systems, that provides a level of bench depth that doesn’t exist in more rural counties.”

In Cayuga County, people who feel sick can go to their doctor for a test and be covered by insurance, but those being proactive, who might want to visit a nursing home or an at-risk loved one, have no options nearby to be tested.

“We have a lot of phone calls lately. We are hearing there’s one urgent care center that charges $185 for a test,” Cuddy said. “There are people who will do that.”

Cuddy and other leaders of rural communities, like in neighboring Wayne County, are asking New York State to bring mobile testing sites to them.

“Their response is they will look into it,” Cuddy said.

For now, all the public health director can do is refer people across the border.

“Every single year, for the last 20 years that I’ve worked, transportation has been a primary barrier,” Cuddy said.

A spokesperson for the State Health Department defended the amount of testing offered to “every corner of New York…” but also blames the federal government for refusing to require coverage for asymptomatic testing or allocate funds. He asks New Yorkers to call Washington.


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