Where was the testing?
That’s the question on the minds of many people wondering why testing for COVID-19 was not ordered before the outbreak accelerated through New York state and the rest of the nation.
This is not to say there hasn’t been some forward progress. Gov. Andrew Cuomo opened the state’s first drive-thru COVID-19 mobile testing center Friday morning. As of Monday morning, the total number of New York state cases reached 732. The governor confirmed the first reported death from the virus on Saturday.
Cuomo opened the six-lane, drive-thru testing center in New Rochelle in partnership with Northwell and BioReference, the mobile testing center, which serves all parts of Westchester County. The facility tested around 200 people Friday and is expected to reach a daily testing capacity of 500 people in the coming days.
But why wasn’t this, or something like it, done earlier? Area health officials and nationwide communicable disease experts warned weeks ago that COVID-19 was marching across the United States and would soon reach New York state.
The governor also announced Friday that New York got approval for 28 state and local labs to do testing for COVID-19 starting this week. The decision will enable the state to run 6,000 tests per day. This is an admirable achievement in such a short time, but it may be too little, too late, as the pandemic, according to the Tribune News Service, hits its acceleration phase.
It’s likely COVID-19 was present in the state before anyone knew it, and as testing increases, many more cases are likely to surface. It could happen this week, and state and local officials should be prepared to ask the public not to panic and to remain calm.
“Testing is probably the single most important thing we could be doing now,” Cuomo said last week. Although we agree with that statement, it should have been uttered weeks ago.
We still have a lot to get through before the pandemic subsides, and we have to focus on that. But when it’s over, the question of why testing took so long has to be explained.