A “surge” of free at-home quick COVID-19 testing for New York community health centers is needed to stop the spread of the omicron strain, said US Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
To do so, Schumer (D-NY) said, HHS must quickly expand access to the testing at community health centers and mobile locations on Long Island and across the state.
Recently, President Joe Biden proposed mandating insurance companies to cover for at-home fast test purchases and expanding the number of these provided to community health centers and rural clinics.
If we procrastinate and let omicron spread, we’ll pay a lot more to have people tested and halt it in its tracks, Schumer warned at a press conference in Manhattan.
Prior to Jan. 15, federal agencies are likely to give instructions on insurance reimbursement, Schumer added. People who can’t afford the tests, don’t have insurance, or don’t want to deal with submitting insurance claims may not be able to get them, the senator says.
He said New York has the most omicron instances in the nation.
According to the Community Health Care Association of New York, the state has over 800 community health centers.
Some of Sun River Health’s Long Island locations are in Amityville, Brentwood, Coram, Greenport, Huntington, Patchogue, Riverhead, Southampton and Wyandanch. Locally, Long Island Federally Qualified Health Centers Inc. has offices in Elmont and Freeport, and schools in Roosevelt and Westbury.
Requests for comment from both groups were not immediately returned Sunday.
Gov. Kathy Hochul presented statistics on COVID-19 infection rates on Long Island. Saturday’s positive test rate was 5.95 percent, up from 5.9 percent the day before. Saturday, 926 persons in Nassau and 1112 in Suffolk tested positive. Two Long Islanders died.
According to Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, 50 million free home tests would be sent to health facilities and food banks.
Biden pledged in September to deliver 25 million free at-home testings, and he increased that promise Thursday as part of a winter effort to battle omicron.
Collins said on Sunday’s Meet The Press that the NIH is testing free online purchase of new quick tests from Amazon.com in seven states.
“We should make testing as easy and affordable as feasible,” Collins added.
Traditional tests take 24–48 hours to provide findings, but rapid testing get results in 15 minutes. The tests cost from $10 to $125 at CVS and Walgreens, according to their websites.
Schumer said HHS could offer the tests using the American Rescue Plan’s $50 billion for testing and tracking.
A Sunday attempt for comment from HHS went unanswered.