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How to Get Free Covid Tests in NYC – The New York Times
How to Get Free Covid Tests in NYC
The federal government is ending its free at-home Covid-19 testing program this week, citing a lack of funding from Congress to replenish the national stockpile of tests. In New York City, officials have closed many brick-and-mortar coronavirus testing sites, in a sign that the city is moving into a new phase of the pandemic: learning to live with the virus.
Households can still order federal home-test kits through Friday by mail by visiting covid.gov/tests.
New York City officials have moved to offer greater access to Paxlovid, an antiviral treatment, via mobile testing sites parked outside pharmacies, and have increased distribution of at-home tests throughout the summer.
In recent weeks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention loosened Covid-19 testing and quarantine guidelines for schools and businesses, ahead of the school year. However, New York City public schools will still send students and staff home with four at-home tests a month, which is down from two per week last year.
The reductions in where and how people can access free Covid-19 tests come after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued new recommendations in August that asymptomatic people who have been exposed to the virus should take at least three tests, spread 48 hours apart, to reduce the chances of missing an infection.
Recorded coronavirus cases in New York City fell 27 percent in the past two weeks, according to a New York Times tracker, though experts believe the true number of cases to be much higher since most people are testing at home.
Here’s what you need to know about getting tested in New York City. You can search for testing sites near you here.
Where can I get a free Covid-19 test in New York?
New York City Health and Hospitals, which runs the city’s public hospitals, offers free walk-in PCR and rapid antigen testing at a number of sites across all five boroughs; no appointment is needed. You can find a list of those sites, along with information about the tests offered, on the health system’s website. You can also see the wait times at the sites using the health system’s online dashboard.
The New York City Department of Health also offers free express testing at several sites around the city; these sites offer PCR testing and results are ready within 24 hours. Testing is available by appointment only, and appointments can be scheduled online. The website also includes information on how to view your results on MyChart.
“We believe that health care is a human right, and we serve every New Yorker regardless of their ability to pay or their immigration status,” said Dr. Mitchell Katz, the hospitals’ president and chief executive.
A number of other providers offer testing across the city. The city’s website includes a list of them, including ones that aren’t part of the city’s health system. The state health department also lists testing sites on its website.
But if you are getting tested at a site that is not run by the city or state, it is best to ask ahead of time whether you will be charged. It is also a good idea to check with your insurer about whether there will be any fees involved for testing.
Are the state’s mass testing sites still open?
New York State officials have run a number of mass testing sites, including in New York City, throughout the pandemic, but they scaled down many of them as the winter Omicron surge waned. The state has the capacity to reopen the sites if needed.
Do testing sites have rules about who is eligible?
City officials have suggested that all New Yorkers get tested, including those who do not have Covid-19 symptoms or are at increased risk of developing serious illness from the virus.
Some testing sites do, however, have age requirements. For example, many of the mobile testing sites run by N.Y.C. Health and Hospitals only test people over age 4. And the at-home kits are for people over age 2.
And sites that aren’t run by the city or state may have other restrictions for testing, such as requiring recent exposure to the virus, so it is best to ask ahead of time.
What about the Covid testing tents I see on the sidewalk?
Policies at the various private testing tents on sidewalks throughout the city vary widely, so check before you swab.
Sharon Otterman, Emily Cochrane and Hurubie Meko contributed reporting.