Cuomo to expand COVID-19 testing at NYC public housing

April 20, 2020

Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City is one of the NYCHA developments to get testing services; Photo via Wikimedia

A pilot program to bring on-site health services and expanded COVID-19 testing to residents of New York City’s public housing will roll out this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday. The news follows preliminary data released by the city and state earlier this month that shows minority and low-income communities are facing disproportionate rates of infection and death from the coronavirus. “People in public housing always seem to pay the highest prices,” the governor said on Monday.

Starting this week, a pilot program will launch at NYCHA developments across the city, including the Highbridge Houses, the Edenwald Houses, Washington Houses, Andrew Jackson Houses, Queensbridge Houses, Brevoort Houses, Red Fern Houses, and Hammel Houses. More than 400,000 New Yorkers live in public housing, with about 20 percent of residents aged 62 or older.

The state will work with Ready Responders, an on-demand service that typically offers non-emergency care, to provide healthcare services and COVID-19 testing to the city’s public housing residents. Officials will partner with U.S. Reps. Gregory Meeks and Hakeem Jefferies, Attorney General Letitia James, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Cuomo also said that the state will deliver more than 500,000 cloth masks to NYCHA communities, which would be enough for at least every tenant, as well as over 10,000 gallons of hand sanitizer.

Data released by the city and state earlier this month showed a disparity in deaths caused by the virus among people of color. In New York City, black New Yorkers face the highest rate of death from COVID-19, with about 92 deaths per 100,000 people, followed by Hispanic New Yorkers, a community with about 74 deaths per 100,000 people, according to a report released by the city on April 16.

“Lower income communities, which are disproportionately on the front lines of this crisis, have been hardest hit and we need to take care of our most vulnerable,” Meeks tweeted on Monday.

Cuomo has said the state is researching the reason behind these disparities but said it’s likely more people of color have jobs considered essential during the pandemic. According to the state, 45 percent of public transit workers, 57 percent of building cleaning service workers, and 40 percent of healthcare workers are people of color. About one-third of frontline workers in New York come from low-income households.

On Monday, Cuomo proposed federal hazard pay for frontline workers, as well as a 50 percent bonus. “They are the ones carrying us through this crisis and this crisis is not over,” he said on Monday. “And if you look at who they are and look at the fairness and equity of what has happened, I think any reasonable person would say we should right this wrong.”


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