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New York offers drive-through COVID-19 tests to address lag

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks Friday at a new mobile testing lab in New Rochelle, NY

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York state opened its first drive-through coronavirus testing center Friday in hard-hit New Rochelle, aiming to break a testing bottleneck that Gov. Andrew Cuomo called a crisis.

The six-lane testing center will soon handle 500 people a day, with priority given to residents of the New York City suburb and surrounding Westchester County, which has been at the center of a cluster of virus cases, Cuomo said.

The drive-through on an island park in New Rochelle is one part of the state’s effort to speed up testing. People seeking tests in New York and around the nation have complained about delays.

“We do have a crisis in testing,” Cuomo said during a visit to the center. “We’re not up to scale.”

People with appointments drove up Friday to large, reception-style tents to have swabs taken by medical workers wearing full protective gear. Samples are sent to a lab.

The testing site is near a 1-mile radius “containment area” at the center of the local cluster, where schools and houses of worship are closed.

Similar drive-throughs have opened recently in Colorado and Minnesota. In Colorado, state health officials were forced to temporarily close the Denver center Thursday because people were waiting in line for up to three hours.

New York has 421 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Cases are concentrated in the New York City area, where Joseph Faraldo began seeking tests after his assistant at a standardbred horse owners group in Yonkers died Tuesday.

Feeling ill himself, Faraldo called the state and city health departments in a vain attempt to schedule a test. City health officials told him someone would call him back, “but they never did.”

His doctor was able to get him tested Wednesday near his home in Queens. Faraldo was waiting on results.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.

Cuomo has blamed the federal government for testing delays and lobbied for approval to expand testing in state and private labs.

The governor said the state is partnering with BioReference Laboratories to run an additional 5,000 tests per day. He said testing will be conducted at 28 public and private labs around the state.