New York expands coronavirus testing to pharmacies, Gov. Cuomo says

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Testing for the coronavirus will dramatically expand across New York under an executive order Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday that will allow independent pharmacies to collect samples to test for the killer bug.

The new, walk-in tests will be made available to first responders, medical workers and “essential employees” such as bus drivers, grocery store clerks and laundromat workers, who are “carrying the load” of the crisis, the governor said at his daily press briefing in Albany.

“If your local drugstore can now become a collection site, people can go to their local drugstore,” Cuomo said. “Since we now have more collection sites, more testing capacity, we can open up the eligibility for those tests.”

Pharmacy employees will administer the test-swabs, then send the samples out to state-approved labs for processing.

“Hopefully, one day we get to the point where anybody who wants a test can walk in and get a test,” Cuomo said.

The state aims to double its current capacity of 20,000 tests a day and expand testing eligibility beyond first responders and health care workers by allowing some 5,000 independent pharmacies to screen for the virus, the governor said at his daily Albany press briefing.

The drug store tests for front-line workers were one of three new testing initiatives Cuomo announced.

Starting Saturday, four hospitals in the city — Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, and the city-run Bellevue and Elmhurst hospitals — began offering antibody testing for front line health care workers.

Elmhurst Hospital made national news when its emergency rooms became jammed with COVID-19 patients.

And SUNY Downstate is now dedicated solely to COVID-19 patients, Cuomo noted.

“You want to talk about God’s work, that’s where it’s happening,” he said.

In the third initiative, this week, the state will phase in comprehensive antibody testing for all MTA workers and for State Police and the NYPD.

The developments came as another 1,100 new cases were detected in the state on Friday, and 437 people — 19 in nursing homes — died of COVID-19, for a total of 16,599 lives lost. Friday’s tally was up from 422 the previous day.

“Only in this crazy reality would 1,100 new cases be relatively good news,” Cuomo said.

Hospitalizations across the state stood at just over 13,000 — the lowest number in nearly a month and the latest sign of progress to contain the virus.

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