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

March 13, 2020 GMT
Authorities operate a drive-thru COVID-19 infection testing site at Glen Island Park, Friday, March 13, 2020, in New Rochelle, N.Y. State officials have set up a “containment area” in the New York City suburb, where schools and houses of worship are closed within a 1-mile radius of a point near a synagogue where an infected person with coronavirus had attended events. State officials stress it is not a lockdown. The vast majority of people recover from the new coronavirus. According to the World  Health Organization, most people recover in about two to six weeks, depending on the severity of the illness. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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Authorities operate a drive-thru COVID-19 infection testing site at Glen Island Park, Friday, March 13, 2020, in New Rochelle, N.Y. State officials have set up a “containment area” in the New York City suburb, where schools and houses of worship are closed within a 1-mile radius of a point near a synagogue where an infected person with coronavirus had attended events. State officials stress it is not a lockdown. The vast majority of people recover from the new coronavirus. According to the World Health Organization, most people recover in about two to six weeks, depending on the severity of the illness. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
1 of 12
Authorities operate a drive-thru COVID-19 infection testing site at Glen Island Park, Friday, March 13, 2020, in New Rochelle, N.Y. State officials have set up a “containment area” in the New York City suburb, where schools and houses of worship are closed within a 1-mile radius of a point near a synagogue where an infected person with coronavirus had attended events. State officials stress it is not a lockdown. The vast majority of people recover from the new coronavirus. According to the World Health Organization, most people recover in about two to six weeks, depending on the severity of the illness. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

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 a part of a state effort to speed up testing that relies on more labs. People seeking tests in New York and around the nation have complained about delays.

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“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.

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New York has more than 400 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.

New York so far has tested more than 3,200 people.

Cuomo, who has blamed federal officials for delays, praised them Friday for allowing testing to be conducted at 28 public and private labs around the state. The state also is partnering with New Jersey-based BioReference Laboratories to run an additional 5,000 tests per day.

The governor said the state will have the capacity to conduct about 6,000 tests a day as early as next week.

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AP video journalist Robert Bumsted contributed from New Rochelle, N.Y.; Associated Press writer David Porter contributed from Newark, N.J.

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The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak