Five Towns Community Center in Lawrence to be a Covid-19 testing site

Jeff Bessen and Ronny Reyes for LI Herald

July 29, 2020

Originally published in Long Island Herald on July 29, 2020.

The Five Towns Community Center in Lawrence will be one of the new Covid-19 testing sites that the  Hempstead Town Board unanimously voted to grant up to $2 million to Northwell Health on July 28 to establish 13 Covid-19 testing sites throughout the town, including in Freeport, Elmont and Hempstead.  

Town of Hempstead Supervisor Donald Clavin said the town had some of the hardest-hit communities on Long Island. The town received $133 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to combat Covid-19. The funding for Northwell Health is intended to prevent a second wave of the pandemic. 

“This is the most important thing we could be doing with the money we received,” Clavin said at a July 28 news conference. “This collaboration will save lives.” 

The Five Towns was one of the harder hit areas, especially in Woodmere where cases multiplied daily in the first several weeks of the pandemic.  

“We are proud to partner with the Town of Hempstead to provide antibody and diagnostic Covid-19 testing and share prevention information, as this is an important step toward stopping the spread of coronavirus and preventing another deadly cycle of the pandemic from getting a foothold across New York state,” added Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health, also at the July 28 news briefing. 

“Northwell Health was instrumental in saving Valley Stream,” said Councilman Bruce Blakeman, who represents Valley Stream, Lawrence, Inwood and portions of Cedarhurst, Elmont and Franklin Square. “Their facility at LIJ Valley Stream really stepped up for the community, so this partnership will be a great help to the Town of Hempstead.”  

In April, State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat who represents the Five Towns, and State Assemblywoman Melissa Miller, a Republican from Atlantic Beach, sent a letter to the state’s Commissioner of Health Howard Zucker, requesting that the Community Center be made a testing site. 

“The Five Towns community has been hit hard by the Coronavirus, and a testing center in this community is desperately needed,” the legislators wrote. “We are now seeing that the virus is disproportionately affecting the African American and immigrant communities, and the community of Inwood in the Five Towns is made up of over 60 percent Latin American immigrants and about 20 percent African-Americans. Additionally, Inwood is home to 14 percent of people living below the federal poverty line, with 80 percent of children in the Lawrence School District receiving free or reduced lunch, making transportation to an alternative testing site impossible.”

It is unclear when the testing site will open. “In times of need is when we shine,” longtime Community Center board member Pete Sobel said about the people in Five Towns. He, along with several other civic-mined people, advocated for a local testing site.

The Five Towns Community Center is at 270 Lawrence Ave. in Lawrence.