NYC Is Ramping Up COVID-19 Testing, But It’s Still Not Enough, Survey Finds


New York leaders are expanding COVID-19 testing as the health crisis continues, but a new survey of 1,000 New Yorkers found that testing efforts are still severely lacking.

In a weekly tracking survey from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, only 8% of the surveyed residents said they’ve been tested for the deadly virus. 

“People need to know their status. We’re quite a ways away from the number of tests necessary for confidence that people know their status to be able to go back to work, to school,”  CUNY SPH distinguished lecturer Scott Ratzan tells SUM.

“We have to continue to ramp up testing. It’s not as high as it should or could be. But it’s only mostly people who are symptomatic, and we need to have much more wide testing for everyone.” 

For the last seven weeks, CUNY SPH researchers have surveyed New York residents to determine attitudes and outcomes about everything from job loss and mental health to housing and testing amid the COVID-19 health crisis. 

Gov.  Andrew Cuomo announced recently that all pharmacies in the state would be allowed to administer COVID-19 tests, according to The New York Times. He also said testing criteria would be expanded to include essential employees, first responders, and health care workers — even if they don’t show symptoms of the virus. 

Testing has been a source of anxiety for many New Yorkers. The city has more than 160,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 17,000 people have died here as a result of the illness, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center

More than one in eight respondents said they weren’t able to get tested by a healthcare professional, and a majority said they were told they didn’t exhibit enough symptoms to warrant testing. Others said they couldn’t afford the test. 

Testing is critical to both containing the virus and easing social distancing restrictions.

“As we plan to return to less restricted daily activities and restore more business operations successfully, testing must become widely available, routine, and not selective,” said CUNY SPH dean Dr. Ayman El-Mohandes, according to CUNY SPH

As leaders focus on testing, Ratzan says vaccination will be very important in the coming months  — particularly, he tells SUM, teaching the public the value of getting a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Fifty-nine percent of respondents said they’d get a coronavirus vaccine. 

The weekly survey is published in JHC Impact, a blog of the Journal of Health Communications.

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New Yorkers and COVID-19
JHC Impact/Journal of Health Communications, 2020

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Scott Ratzan (Distinguished Lecturer, Community Health and Social Sciences) | Profile 1