New COVID-19 test site opens at Bronx Zoo, test for price hikes, and reduced isolation requirements

By SÍLE MOLONEY

Private COVID-19 test
Photo courtesy of Emery Peyton via Flickr

Amid a massive shortage of COVID-19 tests, Somos Community Care and the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (NYC DOH) are launching a new testing site at the Bronx Zoo for New Yorkers aged 5 and over .

As cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant continue to rise in New York City, and despite many NYC Health + Hospitals sites stepping up test availability, demand for tests is skyrocketing. The Bronx Zoo test site will also help support the zoo’s Holiday Light Show and officials said the first 300 guests who can show proof of vaccination will receive two free tickets and free parking for the Holiday Lights Show on December 29.

In addition, people who get a vaccine December 29, at the zoo, will be eligible to receive a specific free ticket on a date. Appointments are available via SOMOS Vaccinations: www.somosvaccinations.com.

Notice from NYC Health + Hospitals regarding test center hours of operation.
Image via NYC Health + Hospitals

Customers are reminded that masks are mandatory for the holiday light show. Access to the vaccination site is only from Southern Boulevard. Use the pedestrian entrance on S. Blvd near 183rd street, or the parking lot entrance at 2300 S. Blvd.

NYC Health + Hospitals Screening and Vaccination Site Hours December 27, 2021 – January 2, 2022.
Image courtesy of NYC Health + Hospitals

Although COVID-19 testing is free, a widely reported shortage of testing sites as the holiday season approaches meant some private testing providers have reportedly increased testing prices. The deluge of New Yorkers trying to get the results of mandatory COVID-19 tests before leaving on a vacation trip, coupled with another rise in infection rates caused by the highly transmissible variant of Omicron, has apparently prompted some private providers to take advantage of the resulting bottleneck in laboratories, and charge exorbitant prices for quick results.

The office of Assembly member Jeffrey Dinowitz (AD 81) confirmed before Christmas that reports had poured in of private test providers charging large sums in the Bronx for antigen and PCR testing. According to his office, one of those reports showed a 25 percent increase in the cost of a test, from $ 80 to $ 100, over the course of a week.

Citywide COVID-19 status as of December 28, 2021.
Source: New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Dinowitz said his office had received several complaints about the extremely high costs of COVID-19 antigen and PCR tests performed by private test providers, as well as complaints about the cost of purchasing home test kits. .

As previously stated by Norwood News, New York State governs price increases. The General Business Law (Article 396-r) states that “During any abnormal disruption of the market for goods and services vital and necessary for the health, safety and welfare of consumers or the general public, no party in the chain of distribution of such goods or services or both must sell or offer to sell such goods or services for an amount which represents an unreasonably excessive price.

The law explicitly covers “essential medical supplies and services used for the care, cure, alleviation, treatment or prevention of any disease or illness” as well as “any other essential good and service used to promote health or welfare of the public. “

The only reason admissible under state law for significant price increases in the goods and services covered is if the increase “preserves the profit margin the defendant received for the same goods or services prior to the abnormal disturbance of the business. market ”or if“ additional costs beyond the defendant’s control have been imposed on the defendant for the goods or services.

The Attorney General is responsible for enforcing this law and violators can face a fine of up to $ 25,000 per violation or three times the gross receipts for the goods or services involved (whichever is greater) as well as a restitution if necessary.

Referring to the predatory pricing crisis, Dinowitz said, “At a time when it is in the public interest to ensure that COVID-19 testing is available to as many New Yorkers as possible, it is unacceptable that suppliers private individuals are using this as an opportunity. to make boats full of profit for themselves.

He added, “I applaud the Attorney General’s continued efforts to combat the rising prices of home testing and urge his office to expand its scope to include antigen and PCR testing as well. This is a public health crisis, and we need everyone to make decisions based on public health factors, not financial ones. I support NYS AG in using all appropriate remedies to combat this unacceptable behavior. “

Of course, the testing crisis is not unique to the Bronx and has been experienced throughout the city, state and country. Before Christmas, there were reports of the Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention (CDC), itself, sending a team of staff to Queens to help ease the demand for testing, while a private Manhattan testing provider billed $ 449 for PCR test results within four hours. These guarantees were not always honored.

Clear-19 announcement for COVID-19 testing
Image from Clear-19 website

The assembly member said price hike complaints should be reported to the NYS Attorney General’s Office, here: https://formsnym.ag.ny.gov/OAGOnlineSubm…/faces/OAGPGCHome

Meanwhile, AP reports that new recommendations have been issued in recent days by the CDC on COVID-19 isolation periods. People with the virus can now leave isolation after five days, up from 10 days.

Reacting to the news, New York Attorney General Letitia James released a statement to employers on December 29, saying: “The health and safety of all New Yorkers has always been our top priority, and in order to protect our communities, we must continue to act responsibly and prudently. It is essential that any employee who exhibits a COVID-19 symptom and who tests positive is not forced to return to the workplace before these symptoms disappear. We must take the necessary steps to stop the spread of this virus, and that is a basic and common sense approach. “

NYC DOH officials remind New Yorkers that the best tools to fight the pandemic are vaccinations and wearing masks.

Norwood News had previously reported on price escalation rules and options available to affected consumers.

Norwood News has requested confirmation of hours of operation for the new Bronx Zoo site and will update this story upon receipt of a response.

Amanda J. Marsh