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Nassau police, other county responders expected to get coronavirus tests

Nassau County Police officers are among some 20,000

Nassau County Police officers are among some 20,000 county first responders who will be able to get Coronavirus tests. Credit: Barry Sloan

Nassau County on Wednesday is expected to begin administering 20,000 tests for COVID-19 and antibodies to county first responders including police, medics and sheriff's correction officers, who have had outbreaks in their ranks.

Results from the finger-prick tests will be available in 15 minutes, county officials said.

The county has ordered the 20,000 test kits from Melville-based medical supplier Henry Schein Inc. at a cost of $660,000.

Doctors and nurses are expected to begin administering the tests at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow beginning Wednesday, county officials said.

The test will check for the coronavirus along with antibodies that indicate whether the individual has recovered from infection.

It can take a week or two for antibodies to appear after a person has been infected, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said.

Curran said Monday that 108 county police officers have tested positive for the virus, while 184 are in quarantine and 81 have been cleared to return to work.

In the sheriff's department, 27 employees are positive, 84 are pending test results and 18 have been cleared.

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"Many of those are back, they've resolved, they're back at work, but we want to make sure for those who are in quarantine — for instance who are pending tests — we want to know, maybe they've already had [it], maybe they're fine and they can be cleared to go back at work." Curran said. 

"According to all of the medical experts, there has not been one case yet of someone who has had this and has gotten reinfected," Curran said. "So, it appears that once you've had it, you are immune."

Dr. Aaron Glatt, chair of medicine and chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital in Oceanside, said there is "not enough information" to know for certain whether the presence of antibodies makes a person immune to reinfection.

"Those tests would indicate whether somebody has had exposure and therefore, they are hopefully recovering and theoretically would not be at risk of getting COVID again," he said. "We do think there is some validity to that, but it is too early at this point to tell exactly what those tests mean."

The Nassau County Legislature on Monday approved funding for the test kits and the purchase of other medical supplies for first responders.

While Nassau will use the kits for its police medics, the county will not procure them for hospitals. Those systems are "working on those for themselves," Curran said.

"Our county employees they're the first responders, so that's our priority," she said.

Tatum Fox, deputy county executive for public safety, said first responders should call the police department's medical administrative office, which will make the testing appointments at NUMC. 

James McDermott, president of the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association, said the tests will give officers "peace of mind" and "get the guys, either out of work so they're not infecting each other, or back to work."

McDermott continued, "We're losing people, and we don't want anybody walking around with the virus spreading it to everybody else."

Kevin Dahill, president and chief executive of the Nassau Suffolk Hospital Council, a Hauppauge-based trade organization that represents 22 hospitals on Long Island, said he hoped such tests will be readily available to hospital staff in the coming weeks.

"I think the first responders out there should get the test; we don't have a problem with that, whatsoever," Dahill said.

Dahill said, "on the hospital side, any [employee] beginning even to show symptoms, we can test — we just can't go beyond that right now" and test those who are asymptomatic.

Also Monday, the county Legislature approved the purchase of 2,000 thermometers to stockpile for all first responders and health care providers, at a cost of $24,000.

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