West Siders are Waiting Hours for Covid Tests; Assemblymember Wants More Testing Sites to Open


The line to get into a CityMD on 88th and Broadway stretched down 88th last week. Photo by Glenn Mack.

Lines to get tested for Covid-19 at CityMD locations have been stretching around the block in the past few days, with some people reporting waits of several hours.

“At 9 a.m. yesterday when the city MD on 88th and Broadway opens, there was a line snaked around the block to Amsterdam of at least 200 people,” wrote Britt Lacher in an email to West Side Rag. “I know someone who waited from 8am (an hour before they open) until 1:30pm to get a covid test.”

This appears to be happening in various parts of the city. There’s even a Twitter account devoted to tracking CityMD lines, though it focuses mostly on the one in Boerum Hill.

The demand for tests may be rising because people are getting tested to prepare to go home to other cities and see relatives during Thanksgiving. (It’s worth noting that health experts advise against gathering with family this year, even after getting a negative test both because of the potential for false negatives and the chances that the test doesn’t pick up recent exposure.)

CityMD offers free tests, and people sometimes start lining well before they open. They cut back on hours recently as their staff is dealing with so much demand, Gothamist noted.

CityMD, which also has multiple locations on Long Island, in Rockland and Westchester counties, and in New Jersey, began closing all of its locations an hour-and-a-half early this week. In an email to patients last week, the urgent care chain said, “Our site staff and doctors have been seeing patients well beyond normal closing time for months now, and we’ve reached the point where they are sacrificing their own safety and health.”

Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal is urging the city to open more testing locations in her district on the Upper West Side and Hell’s Kitchen. The Health & Hospitals Corp., which operates free testing sites, does not have locations in her district (though it does have one on West 100th Street). Rosenthal acknowledges that the UWS still has relatively low rates of Covid-19 as compared to other areas, but better testing access is “a key component in keeping those rates low.”

Read the full letter below (click to enlarge).

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NEWS | 22 comments | permalink
    1. Jay says:

      Linda Rosenthal continues to prove that she knows nothing about anything.

      If you open more testing sites, who is going to staff them? Who is going to set up the technology to report the results? Who’s going to pay for the overhead? How long does she think it takes to set all this up?

    2. Leon says:

      I really hope that people waiting in line to be tested for coronavirus are not spreading coronavirus. I also hope that those who need CityMD for non-testing purposes are able to get in.

      Kudos to Linda Rosenthal for trying to get more testing. This seems to be a problem throughout the city.

    3. LWW says:

      CityMD on 69th and Bway made us wait for hours 5.5 hours on Saturday, mainly (from what I could tell) because a doctor needs to see every patient. A nice little scheme to keep the money flowing.

      But worse, they LOST MY TEST. I got a call on Sunday afternoon informing me they could not find my test. And would I like to get another? Ummm… no. Insult to injury.

      What a joke this entire situation is.

    4. LivableCity says:

      Has anyone asked a few of these line-waiters why they are getting a test? If most are there so they feel safer seeing relatives for TG (a) this is a temporary demand surge, and (b) it doesn’t justify more testing locations from a public health point of view.

      If they are kids just back from college, maybe a good idea, but again, demand should drop soon.

      If they are getting tested because they fear they have (maybe) been exposed, have already isolated for three or four days, and want to see if they should quarantine or can relax, then it is a different story. That is an important reason to be in line for a test, masked and distanced. Yes, checking routinely if you work indoors around others etc is wise for surveillance too.

    5. NotToday222 says:

      This is an immense failure for NYC.

      Besides embarrassingly long lines, the time to get PCR results at a CityMD/doctors office is 3-5 days (there are exceptions – mostly at hospitals where they won’t see walk ins). The actual process for the test takes about 5-6 hours. So someone positive but not quarantining (lots of reasons such as work mandate test) will be circulating for 5 days until they realize they need to isolate. This makes contract tracing pointless.

      We are ~9 months into this pandemic. These facts are unacceptable for the greatest city in the world. Our leadership has failed us.

    6. Crood says:

      The long lines are at CityMD are all over the city. The one at 125st,Jackson Heights and the under the former Casa Puebla have the same issue. The long lines at 88st has been going on for a while already.

    7. Sharon says:

      City MD requires you to see a doctor and insists on giving you a mini physical rather than just giving the test. We were returning from travel and even though we drove and no one would know where we were, we decided to be honest. The riskiest activity we’ve done is stand in line for the test for 3 hours and then wait inside for another 30 minutes. Tests done on Thursday and no results back yet. The state we came from had drive through testing and total time was about 20 minutes. NY, you need to do better, especially if you expect all travelers to be tested on return.

      • mkmuws says:

        I guarantee you the state you came from doesn’t do nearly as much testing.

      • Boris says:

        “even though we drove and no one would know where we were, we decided to be honest”

        It never entered your minds that your travel route might be exposed by use of your EZ-Pass?

    8. Peeps88 says:

      It seems like everyone waiting to be tested for whatever the reason, is a good thing. It helps the state understand where we are with the infection rates. I find it absurd that someone has to wait four-five hours (and this is real as I’ve seen the lines). No one is doing this “for fun.” The state needs to come through and support the good effort shown by people and their willingness to be tested.

    9. mkmuws says:

      I’ve only gotten my tests through HHC. Waits are shorter, results faster. I realize people want convenience, but those who can hop on the subway or go for a walk should find the nearest HHC site of which there are a plethora. This week they opened self testing sites at Penn Station and Port Authority. I rode the subway to Penn, one person happened to get in line right before me, so I had to wait around 5 minutes as they were only serving two people at a time. They have workers activate the kit and enter your info, set up everything except doing the swab which you do yourself. This is the shorter swab, each nostril for several seconds. It was great. They should do a lot more of this. Not a rapid test, but a more reliable PCR test. Kudos

    10. mkmuws says:

      The comments here are all complaining about waiting at City MD. City MD is by far not the only place to get a test! No excuses.

    11. Brenda says:

      At home rapid testing needs to be distributed to every household. The only thing testing tells you if you have traceable Covid at that moment. A positive result is meaningful but a negative result is not. I fear this trend of clinic testing leads to a false confidence.

    12. rteplow says:

      My husband needed to go to CityMD on Sunday but they were only doing virus tests and he needed something else. This is a problem.

    13. LZ says:

      CityMD is not the only option for a COVID test. The longest I’ve waiting at Bellevue/New York City Health & Hospitals is 90 minutes. And my last results for the regular PCR test (not rapid) were back to me that SAME DAY. Family has also had good luck getting appointments for NYC H+H rapid testing in Chelsea. Look up a location here and avoid the CityMD madness. https://www.nychealthandhospitals.org/covid-19-testing-sites/

    14. Eric says:

      If you have no insurance or your need is last-minute the urgent care street-side places may be your only option. But if you do have health insurance you can call your physician’s office and get scheduled at one of the places in their health network. Mount Sinai, Cornell, NYU etc all have several places in the city where you can get a ‘nurse” appointment and be seen at a specific place and time.
      I walked past long, long lines on my way to 72nd street to get my test. On time, in and out in under 15 minutes.

    15. Naomi says:

      There is an H+H location on 126th st and Old Broadway that has no lines. Not sure why people are so stuck up on City MD when we’ve known since JULY that it’s a mess.

      • Here i am says:

        City MD is within walking distance of many people, and not everyone wants to use public transportation or a taxi to go to another location.
        I also know someone who had an urgent but not emergency issue but didn’t go for evaluation because the lines were too long. Relying on a private organization to handle public responsibilities can be problematic .

        • Boris says:

          “Relying on a private organization to handle public responsibilities can be problematic.”

          This is a nonsensical and overly-idealistic comment. Government relies on private contractors to provide many services that important to us.

    16. Emily says:

      These lines themselves are a public health hazard. If even a percentage of these people have COVID, the others in line are at far greater risk of getting it, as well as even possibly others who walk past. It’s not safe. How about an appointment system, lines banned?

    17. Erica says:

      Ask the mayor why the department of health isn’t managing this

    18. Hopeful says:

      Are people with actual medical conditions allowed to go to the head of the line? I know somebody who went a couple of years ago to city MD on the weekend with serious pains. The doctor there sent my friend to the ER. My friend collapsed upon reaching the ER. Cancer.