ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) – The New York state health department is constructing drive-through coronavirus testing sites in five upstate counties, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.
Several details were still unclear. The state health department and the governor’s office said the facilities would be opening this week in Monroe, Erie, Broome, Niagara and Oneida counties, but they did not respond to questions about why those particular counties were chosen.
The health department also did not set a more specific timeline for the facilities’ opening or answer questions about where the sites would be set up.
Those facilities have not been enough, however, to conduct effective disease surveillance across the county.
The state did not say how many samples the new drive-through sites will be able to collect each day, but collecting those specimens is only the first step in the testing process. Analyzing the samples and returning results have been a bottleneck in the effort to discern the prevalence of the virus across the country.
New York expanded its guidance for who should be tested for the virus over the weekend, now including first responders, health care workers and other essential employees, even if they don’t have symptoms. The guidance reflects a growing — but still limited — testing capacity in the state.
Illustrating the limitations, the governor said Monday that drive-through testing at the new facilities is by appointment only, either by filling out an online form or by calling the state’s hotline at 888-364-3065.
Widespread testing that allows authorities to identify and isolate people who are infected with the virus is a key component of the state’s strategy for beginning to reopen businesses and return to normal life, the governor has said.
Monroe County has tested more than 10,000 people and received almost 1,300 positive results, but the county health department has said that’s a small fraction of the testing capacity needed to accurately assess the virus’s prevalence.
The county reported two more deaths from COVID-19 on Monday, bringing its total to 108.
Local testing confirmed 19 new cases of the coronavirus on Monday, the county said, including six people in their 20s.