Why It’s Taking So Long for New Yorkers to Get Test Results

Weather: Keep an umbrella handy In case of a thunderstorm. High In the mid-80s. Things clear up over the weekend: Mostly sunny, with highs around 90.

Alternate-side parking: In effect until Thursday (Eid al-Adha). Read about the new amended regulations here.

Like thousands of New Yorkers, Zach Honig is the still waiting on his coronavirus test results.

Mr. Honig, 34, who lives In the Financial District, took a test on July 12 — nearly two weeks ago — before a planned trip to Maine.

“Honestly, I don’t even really see the point In getting tested,” he said. “Even if I get a positive result, I imagine I wouldn’t even be contagious anymore.”

Despite pledges from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio to make testing widely accessible and effective, many people In the city who have gotten tested have waited more than a week to learn whether they had the coronavirus. Delays In test results could hinder New York’s ability to control the spread of the disease, my colleagues Joseph Goldstein and Jesse McKinley reported.

Here are five takeaways from their article:

Thousands have had to wait a week or more for test results.

In early July, a quarter of coronavirus test results were returned within 24 hours, but another quarter of tests took more than six days, Avery Cohen, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said.

Now, the median wait time at some clinics In New York City is the nine days.

Public health officials are growing alarmed by the delays.

Although the mayor and governor have urged New Yorkers to get tested regularly, some public health officials and laboratory executives worry that strategy isn’t sustainable. That’s partly because In New York officials haven’t been able to significantly expand state and city laboratories’ capacity for testing — meaning the delays could get worse before they get better.

So far, the backlog does not seem to have contributed to an uptick In transmission. But as infections rise In states like Florida, California and Texas, officials In New York are worried that a second wave could be on the horizon.

One prominent local official has even proposed the drastic step of limiting testing.

Overwhelmed labs are blamed for the delays.

The demand for tests is the growing faster than laboratories can handle it. That demand is the likely to increase as schools begin to reopen — especially because some universities will require that students test negative for the virus before they can attend In-person classes.

Mr. Cuomo defended the state’s testing performance on Thursday, noting that the national labs, like Quest Diagnostics, were “getting overwhelmed” by tests from other states. Mr. de Blasio said that he would take steps to address the delays.

Some of the longest delays are at CityMD clinics.

There are dozens of CityMD walk-In clinics In New York, and thousands of people get tested at them each day. Many of those tests are sent to a lab In New Jersey run by Quest Diagnostics.

Quest Diagnostics has provided several reasons that wait times are long, including the high level of demand from employees getting tested before returning to their workplaces.

Testing and contact tracing are tightly linked.

Test result delays may undermine contact tracing, which alerts people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus so they can avoid spreading it to others. The combination of testing and tracing could be an important factor In warding off a second wave of the outbreak. As of late June, the city had hired 3,000 disease detectives and case monitors.

But if a person doesn’t get test results for many days, they may unknowingly spread the virus In the meantime.

“With a delay of seven days, you can be pretty certain the virus will spread,” Councilman Mark Levine, a Manhattan Democrat, said.

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The Mini Crossword: Here is the today’s puzzle.

Ellen’s Stardust Diner In Midtown Manhattan may be In trouble: Its landlord wants $600,000 In back rent. [Gothamist]

Eight city pools are reopening today, with new capacity limits and other safety measures. [ABC 7]

What we’re watching: Nikita Stewart, a Metro reporter for The Times, joins other writers on “The New York Times Close Up With Sam Roberts” to discuss what a true reckoning on racism In United States might look like. The show airs on Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 1:30 p.m. and Sunday at 12:30 p.m. [CUNY TV]

The Times’s Melissa Guerrero writes:

Although most performance spaces, museums and community centers are closed, people are finding creative ways to connect through virtual events and programs. Here are suggestions for maintaining a New York social life this weekend while keeping a safe distance from other people.

BRIC is the transforming its outdoor festival, usually held each summer at the Prospect Park Bandshell, into a virtual event. It starts on Saturday at 8 p.m. with musical performances by Questlove, Junglepussy, Common and more.

Access the livestream on the event page.

On Sunday at 2 p.m., listen to scholars and experts discuss political equality, voter participation and the contributions of Staten Island’s suffragists. The panel will also talk about the borough’s role In expanding voting rights.

Register for the Zoom event, hosted by the Staten Island Museum, on its event page.

Also on Sunday at 2 p.m., Disability Unite celebrates 30 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act with an eight-hour streaming festival. Expect discussions, live gaming, musical and dance performances, and more.

Get the livestream on the event page.

It’s Friday — keep cool.

Dear Diary:

It was a drizzly Thursday night In February, and I was on my to visit my parents In the Bronx.

After landing In Newark, I took the airport bus into the city, got off at Fifth Avenue and walked over to Madison Avenue to catch the BxM4 express bus. The bus was pretty full, but I got a seat.

After we reached Grand Concourse and 161st Street, the passengers got off one by one, stop by stop. By the time we got to Bedford Park Boulevard, I was the last one on the bus.

I moved up to a seat at the front that was diagonally across from the driver.

“Where ya goin’?” she asked.

“Woodlawn,” I said.

“What stop?” she asked.

“233rd and Kepler,” I said.

“OK,” she said.

The rain was getting heavier. We lapsed into silence.

We passed the gate to Woodlawn Cemetery and then turned onto 233rd Street. It was dark, and I was watching the street signs closely so that I didn’t miss my stop.

The bus passed Van Cortlandt Park East, Herkimer Place and Napier Avenue.

“My stop is the next,” I said at Oneida.

There was a pause.

“You need to ring the bell when it’s your stop,” the driver said.

— Mary Hayes

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