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New rapid testing for coronavirus brings long lines to some LI sites

The scene outside AFC Urgent Care in West

The scene outside AFC Urgent Care in West Islip on Thursday. Credit: News12

Demand for new rapid COVID-19 tests Thursday outstripped three Long Island urgent care facilities' ability to give them, forcing operators to stop taking patients shortly after opening at 8 a.m., officials said.

Lou Dionisio, co-owner of the clinics, located in Farmingdale, East Meadow and West Islip, said machines that process results of the nasal swabs can handle about 100 tests per day. The new tests can deliver results within 15 minutes.

Personnel at the three locations registered about 100 people at each clinic Thursday morning for testing before they closed. Registered patients were sent them back to their cars and called to the clinics individually where they were tested for the virus and advised to adhere to social-distancing rules, Dionisio said. 

“To have 100 people so early in the morning is unheard of, and we all know why because we have the rapid molecular test,” Dionisio said late Thursday afternoon.

“They’re so happy, if they make it to the test, they will get the results the same day," Dionisio said. "That’s a game changer.”

He noted that on a typical day, the clinics see no more than 75 patients.

The Farmingdale clinic reopened Thursday about 3 p.m. and a total of close to 125 people were tested there, he said. About 110 tests were administered Thursday at the West Islip and East Meadow clinics before both closed for the day about an hour after opening, Dionisio said. 

Positive results take about five minutes, while a negative result can take between 13 and 15 minutes, he said.

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The three facilities received the new test kits from Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories on Wednesday. Since then, about 600 people have been tested at the three clinics, Dionisio said. Between 60 and 70 percent of those tested were positive, he said.

“We are testing people that need to be tested,” Dionisio said.

Dr. Robert Levy, a co-owner of the Farmingdale clinic, said the new kits are “much more pleasant” for patients, because they don’t require as deep a swab into the nasal cavity like previous tests. 

Doctors  are administering tests to patients with or without insurance, he said. 

Levy said anyone testing positive falls into one of two categories — patients who likely will require hospitalization and those able to remain home to convalesce.

“They’re either sick enough to require hospitalization or they’re well enough to go home,” he said, adding that somewhere between 10 and 20% who do test positive will likely require hospitalization.

"The vast majority who’ve been exposed to the virus will go home," Levy said, "have some flu-like symptoms, will recover and will be fine.” 

Dionisio said he expects people will continue to camp out early Friday to take the test. The clinics will close after registering the first 100 people in line, he said.

The clinics have requested additional testing machines, which are the size of toasters, Dionisio said. But he is unsure if, and when, the clinics will receive more. There are currently seven machines between the three clinics, Dionisio said.

Demand for tests has been so overwhelming that test facilities throughout the state have limited who can take them. In most cases, a test won't be used on a patient unless they show all the symptoms of COVID-19, including a fever, dry cough and shortness of breath. 

There are other conventional testing facilities on Long Island. For example, the state is operating drive-thru testing centers at Jones Beach and Stony Brook University. 

Lake Success-based ProHEALTH operates four drive-thru testing centers in the region. Patients must have an appointment to be tested, ProHEALTH said, adding anyone wishing to be tested should call 516-874-0411 to talk to a medical professional. 

ProHEALTH has centers in Lake Success, Jericho, Riverhead and Little Neck, Queens.

With David Reich-Hale

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