New York rapid test program launches to help businesses, events reopen safely

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ALBANY/ELMIRA, N.Y. (NEWS10/WETM) — Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Friday the launch of the New York Forward Rapid Test Program to help businesses safely reopen. This public-private partnership will make low-cost rapid testing available to the public as the State continues to reopen parts of the economy.

Eleven initial sites opened on Friday in New York City with the capacity to conduct more than 5,000 tests per day. Additional sites are scheduled to open throughout the state in the coming weeks.  

“Throughout the COVID pandemic, we have relied on science over emotion and political rhetoric to guide our decisions, using all the tools available to navigate New York’s public health and economic challenges,” Governor Cuomo said. “I have said from the beginning that testing will be a key part of our post-pandemic recovery because it will help us accelerate the reopening of our economy – without undoing the extraordinary progress we made in beating back the virus.”

The New York Forward Rapid Test Program aims to expand access to rapid testing to allow business and entertainment centers to safely re-open. The Governor’s Office says this network provides an additional layer of protection and confidence and it anticipates future State guidance that will increase capacity limits contingent upon testing.

Some health experts, including the CDC have said antigen rapid testing is not always accurate.

“The problem with rapid test, if it’s antigen based, is that if they don’t have any symptoms the patient or the individual, the testing can be falsely negatives,” said Dr. Justin Nistico, DO, an Infectious Disease Doctor at Arnot Health.

Dr. Nistico said rapid tests will show a negative result is antigen levels are low or if an individual is asymptomatic.

“It may mean that you just have an early on course of the infection so it may not be where your symptoms are maximum,” Dr. Nistico said. “Or you could be asymptomatic and you may miss some of these cases.”

 Testing providers participating in the network must make rapid testing available for no more than $30, provide participants with their results within 30 minutes, and offer a mechanism for people to schedule in advance and report the results to the State.

To reduce the cost of testing for New Yorkers and expand the number of sites, the State is providing access to Abbott BinaxNow tests at cost to some providers and working with the Real Estate Board of New York, Business Improvement Districts and other partners across the state to identify spaces that can be donated for the testing network.

Donated sites must be in a “commercially-zoned corridor,” contain at least 750 square feet of open space and be available immediately for a minimum of six months. Sites must have street-level access, a restroom and be Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant. Entities that meet the above criteria and are interested in participating should email rapidtestingrealestate@esd.ny.gov for consideration.

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