Following Local Coronavirus Uptick, Officials Encourage Getting Tested


 After a recent uptick in coronavirus cases in Far Rockaway, local elected officials came together for a press conference on Tuesday, September 29, to highlight some of Rockaway’s free testing sites that are available and encouraged all to take advantage of them. Additionally, it was announced that starting Wednesday, September 30, Rockaway’s Beach 39th testing site will offer rapid testing, providing results as quickly as 15 minutes.

In recent days, Far Rockaway has been highlighted as one of nine zip codes across New York City to see an increase in coronavirus cases. As of Tuesday, Far Rockaway’s 11691 zip code had reached a 3.98% positivity rate, showing an increase from the citywide average below one percent in recent weeks. As kids head back to school and more businesses open, the increase is cause for alarm, so officials are doing what they can to keep numbers away from the levels seen back in the spring. One way to do so is to step up testing and trace cases, so on Tuesday, September 29, local elected leaders including Councilman Donovan Richards and Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato held a press conference at the Beach 39th testing site to highlight that site and others.

“There are three testing sites in the Rockaway community,” Richards said. “There’s always this notion and this rumor in the Rockaways that we don’t get anything and the city leaves us behind. It was a fight, but it is here, we have testing. Take advantage. We have Beach 39th Street, Sorrentino Center and as of yesterday, Rise Rockaway site, where you can go and get tested for free.”

“I can’t tell you how many constituents who have reached out and said they were charged by their urgent care. This is a free testing site,” Pheffer Amato said at the Beach 39th site. “It is clean, professional, top of the line and everyone should be coming here. We want to add testing into our everyday lives. Your kids are going to school, you’re hearing rumors maybe some kids are infected. Take you and your kids after school and get tested. What is the crime? Nothing, you get a negative, you go back, if it’s positive, then we know what to deal with and we’re letting everyone else know. There seems to be this lack of being responsible like we were before. The restaurants are open, gyms are open, some kids are going back to their activities. If we don’t get tested, that’s all going to go in reverse. We can enjoy a restaurant if we are all being responsible. The name of the game is the health and safety of our community. I don’t want another life lost to Covid-19, especially in my community, but the whole city and state.”

Following Richards and Pheffer Amato, Dr. Ted Long Executive Director of New York Health and Hospitals’ Test & Trace Corps spoke about the seriousness of the local uptick. “In the Rockaways, how serious is this? This is very serious. There has been a three-fold increase in the number of new cases every day compared to before. We need to take this seriously and we need to work together,” Dr. Long said.

To do this, Dr. Long also encouraged the community to get tested. “It’s not too late for us to control the coronavirus in this community. In New York City, they’re doing testing and contact tracing where you figure out if somebody is exposed to the coronavirus and you get them quarantined so they don’t potentially infect other people. We’ve been able to drive down the rate of new cases in NYC by two-thirds since we started doing this in June. We can do the same thing here in the Rockaways if we do it together. All I need from you is to have our community here come in to get tested at this beautiful new site, and then pick up the phone if you’ve tested positive, to talk to us. Tell us who you may have exposed, and we’ll talk to them and figure out how we can deliver free food to them or get them a free hotel stay. We’ll do everything in our power to help you.”

He also encouraged people to continue to wear masks. “It’s been a cornerstone of what’s made us successful, making NYC one of the best control rate cities in the whole country in terms of big cities. We’re distributing now, in all the communities where we’re seeing an uptick, more than 300,000 masks and including more than 300 synagogues, we’re going in and giving masks to hand out to the communities there.”

At the end, Dr. Long announced that rapid testing will now be available at the Beach 39th testing location. “Right here, we’re bringing in this week, new rapid testing machines where you can come in, get your test and have your result back within 15 minutes. We wanted to do this to help the community here, so go, tell everybody to come get tested. We have a tremendous amount of capacity. That’s the way we’re going to get out of this, as a city, as a community.”

To ease fears about testing and encourage others to take advantage of Rockaway’s free testing sites, at the end of the press conference, both Richards and Pheffer Amato got tested themselves.

“If you have not heard, the mayor has spoken of nine zip codes where we’re seeing these upticks and how we can see restrictions placed on these communities and see more of an aggressive lockdown in the Rockaways if we do not take this seriously,” Richards said. “We may not be at the worst place that we saw before, but we don’t need to go back and revisit where we were just a few months ago where we saw hundreds of people testing positive and where we saw lives lost. Let’s do this together. We have to take this seriously, but we can only do this by all being team players at this moment.”

Rockaway’s free testing sites include Beach 39th (39-20 Rockaway Beach Blvd), open daily, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sorrentino Recreation Center (18-48 Cornaga Ave, open daily 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and RISE (Between Beach 59th and 60th) will temporarily offer testing from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through October 2.