With brown and black New Yorkers disproportionately at-risk for contracting the coronavirus, the city and state announced plans to expand access to testing and face masks for residents of the city’s public-housing system.
Governor Cuomo said April 20 that the state would partner with Ready Responders, a home-health-care provider, to bring free coronavirus testing to eight developments at the Housing Authority.
'Tenants Pay Highest Price'
“You look at almost any emergency that happens in the nation, people in public housing pay the highest price,” Mr. Cuomo said during the press conference, adding that the virus was most contagious in places with high concentrations of people. “Public housing is one of the greatest places of concentration, and it's one of the greatest places of health disparities in the first place."
Coronavirus is especially dangerous for those with pre-existing health conditions and the elderly; about 20 percent of NYCHA residents are senior citizens.
The health-care services were launched last week at the Highbridge Houses, Edenwald Houses and Andrew Jackson Houses in the Bronx; Manhattan’s Washington Houses; Queensbridge Houses and Brevoort Houses in Queens, and Red Fern Houses and Hammel Houses in Brooklyn.
“There is no cost to the city, no cost to the state. No cost to NYCHA and each of the residents is covered with no cost to them,” said Justin Dangel, CEO of Ready Responders.
What They'll Get
As part of the initiative, residents will be provided with 500,000 face-masks. Ten thousand gallons of hand sanitizer will also be distributed to senior residents and NYCHA this week, after both its tenant leadership and Teamsters Local 237 approached the Governor’s Office and State Sen. Brian Benjamin.
Gregory Floyd, president of the union representing 8,000 NYCHA employees, previously told The Chief that his members working at HA were not being supplied with soap or personal protective equipment.
“We thank Governor Cuomo and Senator Benjamin for sending much-needed hand sanitizer to the residents and our members in NYCHA,” he said.
According to NYCHA, 260 of the Authority’s 11,000 employees have coronavirus. So far, eight employees have died.
Mayor de Blasio also announced plans to boost NYCHA residents’ access to testing, launching six new sites that would give priority to the city’s 400,000 public-housing residents.
Where They'll Be
Three sites operated by NYC Health + Hospitals—Cumberland Health Center, Belvis Health Center and Gouverneur Health Center—opened April 24, while three additional testing centers at Jonathan Williams Houses in Williamsburg, Woodside Houses in Queens and Harlem’s St. Nicholas Houses will open this week.
NYCHA residents “often haven't gotten a fair shake and didn't have access to the health care they deserved over the years,” the Mayor said during an April 22 press conference. “But these are folks who are the backbone of the city, and we owe it to them to make a special effort.”
The city has also partnered with T-Mobile to provide free tablets and internet service for 10,000 senior residents living in NYCHA developments in Brownsville, East New York, Red Hook, Bushwick, Coney Island and Mott Haven in order to keep them connected with their families.
The de Blasio administration’s efforts at NYCHA were part of a larger “Test and Trace” campaign to find those who had contracted the virus in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. Five walk-in centers also operated by NYC Health + Hospitals had already opened.
Can Test Far More
The Mayor explained that the city was able to prioritize NYCHA communities because it had expanded its testing capabilities. New York City companies will produce 50,000 tests per week starting in May, while the city has agreed to buy 50,000 test kits every week from Aria Diagnostics, which is based Indiana.
“We just didn't have the amount of testing and the personnel and the PPEs to do testing on the community level the way we needed. Now we're in a position to go out to communities much more deeply,” Mr. de Blasio said.
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