Wyandanch, one of the communities in Suffolk County hit hard...

Wyandanch, one of the communities in Suffolk County hit hard by COVID-19, has a testing site on Straight Path. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Government officials in both Nassau and Suffolk counties said Friday that efforts to bring testing to nearly a dozen communities of color hit hard by the coronavirus are paying off and that more sites could be added.

“The turnout has been great,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Friday. “We’ve been able to ramp up each day and get more testing out.”

The testing sites are in Brentwood, Riverhead, Huntington Station, Wyandanch, Coram and North Amityville in Suffolk, and Hempstead and Freeport in Nassau. While officials said the percentage of people testing positive for the virus has declined in the past 3 weeks, hot spot areas remain a concern.

Bellone and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said existing health and other disparities have been further exposed with the onset of COVID-19.

Suffolk’s sixth site opened Friday in Coram. At the close of business Thursday 1,679 tests had been administered at all sites.

Huntington was the first site to open, on April 8.

Curran opened up county funded outdoor testing sites Wednesday in Hempstead village and Freeport village, and a third is to open next week in Elmont.

Curran’s office said it does not have the ethnicities of everyone getting tested, but anecdotally it’s representative of the communities where the testing sites are located. 

“My team and I have been focused on scaling up viral testing, that’s the testing to say whether or not if you have the virus, in the hardest-hit areas,” Curran said Friday during her daily briefing.

By the end of Wednesday, Suffolk had received 1,077 results from the hot spot testing sites. Of those, 577, or 54%, came back positive. The overall county result for the same time period was 71,268 tests, of which 28,854, or 40.5%, came back positive.

“The reason we’re doing the hot spot testing in these sites is because they were communities that were identified as having higher rates of infection,” Bellone said.

Curran’s office said more than 150 residents were tested in the first 48 hours of being open.

Bellone has also added a food assistance program at the testing sites. His office is also looking at establishing mobile testing locations for smaller communities that have a high per capita infection rate.

“We are pleased that the information regarding the testing sites has penetrated communities, and we have a consistent flow of people being tested at each site,” Bellone said.

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci said it has been disheartening to see that some areas have been hit harder than others.

“Initially when we saw this trend, we worked on message translation to break through the language barrier for the significant Spanish-speaking portion of our community,” he said. “I think this effort has been working.”

Hempstead Village Mayor Don Ryan thanked Curran for setting up a site  in his village, noting that it had been difficult for some of his constituents to travel to Jones Beach to get tested.

“The numbers reflect the fact Hempstead was an area that needed great attention, so a site set up earlier would have helped,” Ryan said. “But we have it now and I’m pleased.”

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