COVID-19 drive-through test site opens at UAlbany – The Daily Gazette

Gov. Andrew Cuomo briefs the media Monday at the state Capitol.

ALBANY COVID-19 testing began Monday at a new state-run drive-through test site on the University at Albany campus Monday morning.

Patrick Murphy, state commissioner of homeland security and emergency services, spoke to reporters Monday at the new test station, which is the states first in this area and follows the model that has been used at multiple sites in the New York City area, the region hit hardest by the pandemic in the nation so far.

Across New York, he said, weve had testing of individuals that have been symptomatic or otherwise exposed. The site here today is an extension of that continued testing.

Priority for testing will go to first responders and medical professionals, then members of the general public with high-risk profiles showing symptoms of COVID-19. People who want to be tested just for peace of mind are discouraged from seeking tests.

Limited availability of test kits has crimped testing efforts in Albany County and elsewhere. There are adequate supplies to run the new UAlbany drive-thru for the foreseeable future, but not with unlimited testing, Murphy said.

The site can perform hundreds of tests a day, and similar facilities downstate have done as many as 1,000 in a single day, he said.

With six lanes for tests, if people arrive at their scheduled times, it runs very smoothly, officials say. Motorists stay in their vehicles with the windows up until their turn, then roll down their window, answer the questions and prepare for the nasal swab.

It kind of tickles as much as anything when it goes in but its not painful, Murphy said.

The UAlbany site is a joint venture of the SUNY system, Albany Medical Center, St. Peters Health Partners, state Department of Health, state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, and National Guard.

Murphy said the point is not so much to tally up people with confirmed cases Albany County has the most in the Capital Region but rather to identify those who are sick and decrease their risk of transmitting the disease to other people.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has warned repeatedly about this risk of transmission. On Monday, he extended for two more weeks to April 29 the restrictive provisions of NYS on Pause, including mandatory closure of schools and nonessential businesses so as to keep people too far apart to share germs. For the same reason, he also increased maximum fines for violations of the social distancing protocol from $500 to $1,000.

Also Monday morning, 16,837 people were hospitalized with the virus statewide while the cumulative totals since March 1 reached 130,689 confirmed infected and 4,758 dead.

There is some cause for optimism: The number of new hospitalizations and new placements in intensive care have slowed, and the number of new deaths has been steady for a couple of days. That could be an indication that the peak of the crisis is arriving in New York state, or that the spike of the peak has been smoothed out.

Social distancing efforts may be paying off, Cuomo said. But the milder weather presents an added challenge.

Its individual behavior thats been problematic over the weekend, Cuomo said. I get that it was a nice day and the weather was good and people have been cooped up. Now is not the time to slack off what were doing.

Asked by a reporter about tight-knit Orthodox Jewish communities in two hard-hit areas Brooklyn and Rockland County continuing to hold weddings and funerals with hundreds of attendees, Cuomo said they should be stopped.

I dont care if you are orthodox Jewish, Catholic Christian, Muslim, I dont care what, its not about religious observation, he said.

What right do you have to act irresponsibly in a way that could get you sick or get someone else sick? None of us has the right to be reckless. As a society the risk is too great.

He added that local governments had the power to break up such events.

Enforce the law, Cuomo said.

Cuomos announcement Friday that hed have the National Guard move ventilators from upstate hospitals with few COVID-19 patients to overwhelmed downstate hospitals appeared to have gone nowhere Monday, following criticism and resistance from upstate leaders.

During his daily briefing for the press Monday, Cuomo skirted what appeared to be a significant break in his effort to unify the state and its resources to best fight the virus.

We are moving ventilators now among the [downstate] system, he said. Thousands of devices to help people breathe and keep them alive in the throes of COVID19 both ventilators and less-ideal machines originally designed for other purposes are being shifted around as needed within New York City-area hospitals, he said.

Cuomo added that he understood the reluctance of hospitals to share and also defended his attempts to move resources.

If they had a wish list, everybody would want a stockpile and a reserve in their own hospital, he said. I get that. We dont have that luxury.

Late Monday, the Hospital Association of New York State said it had coordinated a voluntary registry through which upstate hospitals would list equipment they had and could share if needed, but would keep until needed.

In other developments Monday:

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COVID-19 drive-through test site opens at UAlbany - The Daily Gazette