Updated Oct. 21 at 9:45 a.m.
In an effort to combat the recent uptick of Covid-19 cases in the Five Towns, the Five Towns Community Center, in Lawrence, began serving as a coronavirus testing site on Tuesday.
Several elected and community center officials campaigned to have the center used for testing, and Nassau County and Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital, in Oceanside, joined forces to bring the idea to fruition.
Mount Sinai is supplying staff and facilities, setting up a trailer-like facility in the community center’s parking lot. The county will pay for their services. At a news conference outside the center on Tuesday, County Executive Laura Curran said that testing kits and other medical supplies were given to the county and Mount Sinai South Nassau by the state.
“I’m very happy to be here for this announcement, as we’ve seen a Covid uptick in the Five Towns community,” Curran said. “We’re all awaiting a vaccine, but without a vaccine, the difference between a successful and unsuccessful reopening isn’t whether you can eliminate the virus completely, but it’s whether you can keep the virus under control.”
Beginning this week, free drive-up and walk-in testing will be available to Long Island residents in the center’s back parking lot every other week, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 7 to 11 a.m. Appointments are required. Test results are available within 13 minutes.
Curran noted that testing would be expanded to the Marion & Aaron Gural JCC in Cedarhurst in the “coming weeks.” “Once the JCC site is set up, testing will rotate between the two sites on a weekly basis,” she said. “We want to make sure we’re reaching everybody in the community.”
Dr. Aaron Glatt, of Woodmere, the chair of the Department of Infectious Diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau, said that in more than 30 years in medicine, he has never seen a virus as “vicious” as Covid-19.
“This virus is like Whac-A-Mole,” Glatt said. “This community has a Covid problem and it gets addressed, then this will pop up in another community in the county. The things people have to remember are to continue wearing masks and social distancing. Rapid testing like this can help identify people who are most likely to be contagious.”
County Health Commissioner Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein said that new numbers reported by the county on Tuesday showed a slight decrease in Covid-19 cases in Lawrence and Cedarhurst, while the number of cases in Woodmere had increased.
“The last four weeks, positive cases in Lawrence and Cedarhurst were six to seven times higher than the county average,” Eisenstein explained. “We’re optimistic that we’re heading in the right direction, and hopefully this initiative will help push the numbers down in the Five Towns, and eliminate this area from the yellow and orange zone.”
As of press time on Tuesday, Lawrence has had 444 positive cases since the pandemic began; Cedarhurst, 301; Inwood, 446; Hewlett, 254; and Woodmere, 829, according to the county.
Pete Sobol, former executive director and a current board member at the community center, noted the importance of having a testing site in Lawrence and Inwood. “Inwood is the poorest community on Long Island, and we’re sandwiched between two Covid hot spots in Far Rockaway and Woodmere,” Sobol said. “When it comes to the virus, we need help. This initiative is the first step in helping stop this virus in our community.”
Curran reminded residents to continue following coronavirus guidelines. “I know that we all have pandemic fatigue at this point, but we just have to keep it going with taking proper precautions,” she said. “We’re not done dealing with this virus yet, and we’re going to keep encouraging everyone to use common sense every day, such as getting a test if you feel sick.”
The Five Towns Community Center is at 270 Lawrence Ave. in Lawrence. Call (516) 390-2888 for a testing appointment.