Testing their patience
City abruptly closes coronavirus testing centers, confusing locals
BY ROSE ADAMS
The mayor’s offi ce abruptly
closed most coronavirus testing
centers on March 20 — but
failed to notify many offi cials
and hospital workers, confusing
and frustrating locals.
“They didn’t give us any detail,”
said Eddie Mark, the district
manager of Community
Board 13, which services Coney
Island, Gravesend, and Brighton
Beach. “There’s nobody that
we know of that we can call.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced
on March 20 that the city
would close all appointment-only
coronavirus testing facilities
citywide, citing a critical shortage
of protective gear for hospital
staff. Hizzoner clarifi ed two days
later that testing would continue
at tent facilities erected outside
public hospitals — but only for patients
in need of hospitalization.
The change in protocol came
only hours after two testing sites
opened their doors at Coney Island
Hospital and the Ida G. Israel
Community Health Center.
A third testing site at Coney Island’s
MCU Park, which is still
under construction, will test
overfl ow emergency room patients
from Coney Island Hospital
once it’s completed, offi cials said.
Prior to the facilities’ closure,
residents had been told
they could make appointments at
the testing centers by calling the
New York City Health and Hospitals
hotline, where a clinician
would evaluate their symptoms.
However, when residents
called the hotline on Saturday
— after the change in protocol
— clinicians told them that they
had never heard of either testing
site and did not listen to their
“I was on the phone for eight
hours over two days,” said Nicole,
a Midwood resident who
said she experienced fever and
coughing, and feared she could
infect her elderly mother who
suffers from cancer.
Nicole said she called the
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hotline to make an appointment,
but after waiting for 45 minutes on
hold, a pre-screener told her, “I’m
sorry, I don’t know why you’re
calling this number. We just give
out general information.”
The screener eventually
transferred Nicole to a doctor,
but the doctor did not listen to
Nicole’s symptoms and simply
told her to go to the hospital if
she “felt ill,” she said.
“She just repeated the same
mantra, like she was reading
from a script,” Nicole said.
Because many local offi cials
and even hospital staff did not
know that the testing sites had
closed, they redirected confused
callers back to the same hotline
to schedule an appointment. As
of Tuesday afternoon, receptionists
at Coney Island Hospital
were still telling callers to call
Nicole decided to visit a CityMD
instead, where she was
able to get tested for free with
“The fact that I was able with
such ease to go somewhere else,
that says to me that their system
is the one failing,” said Nicole,
who, as of Tuesday, was
still awaiting her test results.
Mark said that the state’s
ability to turn the Javits Center
in Manhattan into a testing complex
indicates that there must be
enough resources for a similar
center in Brooklyn.
“They’re setting that up, but
what about Brooklyn?” he said.
The city has put stricter limits on who can recive a test for the novel
coronavirus. Photo by Todd Maisel
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