New Covid-19 testing site opens in Elmont

Melissa Koenig

April 28, 2020

Originally published in Long Island Herald on April 28, 2020.

A new Covid-19 rapid testing site is now up and running in  Elmont, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran announced on Tuesday, following the opening of two other sites in Hempstead and Freeport last week.

The new site, at the Federally Qualified Health Center on Hempstead Turnpike, is easily accessible by the Nassau Inter-County Express system, Curran said, and will provide residents with tests regardless of their insurance or immigration status. Multilingual translation services will also be provided.

Additionally, Curran announced, all three rapid testing sites will provide those who get tested with a free box of food.

The news comes as Elmont continues to have among the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the county, and reports indicate that the virus is disproportionately affecting communities of color. 

State Department of Health Data released earlier this month showed the fatality rate among African-Americans was 17 percent statewide, despite the fact that blacks make up only 9 percent of the state’s population. And in Nassau County, blacks, who represent 13 percent of the population, made up another 17 percent of the county’s fatalities.

"One of the best tools Nassau County has to begin a safe reopening is mass testing, particularly in our hardest hit areas,” Curran explained in a statement. “This crisis has affected all of us, but it's shining a bright light on long-standing inequities that we must continue to address in our county and country. That's why Nassau County is rapidly scaling up access to Covid-19 testing and services in our hardest hit communities, which are predominantly communities of color.”

Earlier this month, Nassau County Legislator Carrié Solages and State Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to set up more rapid testing sites in communities with large minority populations, such as Elmont, Valley Stream, Freeport and Inwood. These communities were facing a backlog in testing at the time, Carrié wrote in a letter to the governor on April 8, “leaving many unable to receive the test in a timely fashion, and therefore forcing them to remain uncertain about their health status.”

He also noted that African-Americans are more likely to have underlying health conditions that can make Covid-19 more severe — such as heart disease, diabetes and hypertension.

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky also sent a letter to the Department of Health on April 15, saying a site should be developed at Belmont Park because it is “centralized and recognizable location that is easily accessible for Elmont residents.”

“For a community that desperately needs testing resources, it represents the most viable location for such a site,” he wrote. “Placing a testing facility there would ensure that all those in need have proper access to Covid-19 tests.

In response to the county and the the Federally Qualified Health Clinics’ efforts to open the new site, Kaminsky thanked Curran and Cuomo, saying it will “address a critical need in the Elmont community,” and Assemblywoman Solages added,  “It is encouraging to see Nassau County prioritizing the communities that have shown a higher rate of infection and mortality from the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“Establishing an accessible diagnostic testing network is an integral part in managing the spread of the coronavirus,” she said, adding that the Federally Qualified Health Centers are “uniquely equipped to handle the Covid-19 testing process” as they “have a long history of aiding underserved, immigrant and economically disadvantaged populations in the county.”

To get tested, call (516) 396-7500. The site will be open Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and all appointments must be made over the phone. Testing capacity in New York state remains limited; however, anyone with Covid-19 symptoms should be tested as soon as possible.

More information is available at LIFQHC.org.