New Yorkers stood for hours in long lines to be tested for the coronavirus on Friday, a disturbing indicator that shows the basic public health challenges that the country still faces many months after the pandemic first hit.
People waited for tests they needed for work or school. Some feared they might have gotten sick after flouting social distancing while celebrating after the election. Others hoped to safely visit family on Thanksgiving, which suggested that the problem might only worsen over the coming holidays. And some, dissuaded by the prospect of lingering on sidewalks for more than three hours in the rain, walked away untested.
“It’s so frustrating,” said City Councilman Mark Levine of Manhattan, who chairs the council’s Health Committee. “We keep hitting new problems in tests. We solve one and another pops up.”
The lines underscore how a second wave of the virus is threatening New York City, and come as the rest of the country confronts record numbers of new cases — more than 165,000 nationally on Friday. Several governors have warned that they are seriously considering further restrictions in a last-ditch effort to curb the outbreak.
New York City had a record number of tests on Thursday, more than 74,000, officials said. Across the country, nearly 1.5 million people a day are being tested, according to the Covid Tracking Project — nearly double the number in August and far more than during the first wave of the pandemic in the spring, when there was far less capacity.
Now, public health systems around the country are once again straining under the growing demand for testing. Some areas face looming shortages of laboratory capacity. In others, such as New York City, clinics and other testing sites have been swamped by huge numbers of people seeking to be tested.