New York state will allow first responders, health care workers, and essential employees to be tested for the coronavirus, regardless of whether they’ve displayed symptoms, as the state begins to expand its testing criteria for the disease.
Independent pharmacies in New York will also now be allowed to test individuals. Those samples will be shipped to a lab for results.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday that the state’s criteria for testing individuals for the virus will continue to expand as the number of tests available continues to increase. New York is planning to double the average number of tests it performs daily to 40,000 in the coming weeks.
Any employee that’s been deemed essential by the state — which ranges widely from members of law enforcement to dry cleaners — will now be eligible to be tested.
“These people have been carrying the load, and they have been subjected to the public all during this crisis, and because they’re public-facing,” Cuomo said. “These are the people who you interact with.”
Access to testing will also be made easier, Cuomo said. The state will allow independent pharmacists to conduct and collect tests. They’re not required to do so, but Cuomo said he expects many of the state’s 5,000 drug stores to offer the service.
“If your local drug store can now become a collection site, people could go to their local drug store. They would be collection sites,” Cuomo said. “That would quickly ramp up our collection capacity.”
Cuomo has said, on a number of occasions, that widespread testing will allow the state to reopen its economy sooner, rather than later. There still isn’t a definitive date for when businesses will reopen, but Cuomo hasn’t extended the shutdown past May 15.
That comes as the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 continued to decline, per Saturday’s numbers. As of Friday, 13,524 people were still hospitalized with the disease, a decline of 734 from Thursday.
An additional 2,317 people were discharged from the hospital Friday, but 108 fewer people were intubated compared to Thursday. An additional 10,553 tested positive for the disease Friday.
The number of deaths from COVID-19 in New York reached 16,599 Friday after an additional 437 died from the disease. That’s more than the state had initially projected at the beginning of April, when New York had less than 2,000 deaths from the disease.