With the amount of testing for COVID-19 still nowhere where it needs to be, locals in emergency service are starting to get such necessary information whether they have COVID-19 or its antibodies from some unexpected places.
The New York Cancer and Blood Specialists location in Port Jefferson Station started offering tests to firefighters, emergency responders and other essential workers Saturday, May 2. Throughout the morning, cars from districts such as Medford pulled into the parking lot located at 1500 Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station. Many who arrived said this had been their first opportunity to get tested, even though as EMS workers in an ambulance they have been handling COVID-positive patients for nearly the past two months.
Marcia Spiegel, an EMT for the Medford Fire Department, said she had been exposed all the way back in early March when at a surprise party she learned one of the persons there had it, but even close to two months since,she was never able to get tested.
Both her and her husband Kenneth both traveled to Port Jefferson Station to get tested, as did many from her department that morning May 2.
“If we’re in fact negative, it doesn’t mean that we still can’t get sick, but if we know if we have the antibodies, that would be better,” she said.
Staff in full body gear went out to each car to administer the tests, including the notorious long-stemmed nasal swab to test for the virus and drawing blood to test for antibodies. About 35 visitors came to the location last Saturday, including some essential workers from a construction company. NYCBS officials said another 50 would attend next Saturday’s marathon. The testing is held Saturdays at that specific location when no other employees or clients come through, medical workers said.
Lindsey David, a Medford EMT, said she donated blood right at the start of the pandemic, but has been looking for ways to help even more. That would be especially important if she can confirm she may have had the virus and perhaps can donate her blood plasma if she indeed has the antibodies.
“I just want to help any way I can,” she said.
Diana Youngs, a VP of Clinical Operations at NYCBS, said all readings from the tests are being done in-house at the Route 112 location. Fire departments and companies receive their antibody tests within the day, while the virus test is available within the next 48 hours.
Researchers are still trying to understand what are the likelihood of developing antibodies for the virus after infection, but theoretically, Youngs said, if one has tested negative for the virus and for antibodies then likely they have never had the virus.
“They don’t know, and say you call an ambulance to your house, you don’t know if they have it,” Youngs said. “So it works both ways, it helps everybody.”
All testing supplies are coming from the company’s own suppliers.
Such efforts are some of the few non-governmental testing initiatives on the island that specifically offer help to emergency responders. While Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced plans for testing to be held at local pharmacies, specific details of locations and how those tests will be processed have not yet seen the light. New York state is also offering people the chance to try and get tested, with people able to visit covid19screening.health.ny.gov
Though, barring a vaccine, officials said testing is the only way the economy will eventually be able to safely reopen.
“Increased, reliable testing is going to be the key to reopening businesses, public facilities, and protecting our workers,” Brookhaven town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said in a release. “Offering these tests to our frontline workers is a critical first step.”