The city is urging parents to get their kids tested for COVID-19 before they return to school January 3rd, but it’s not a simple matter -- especially for families with young kids.
Home test kits are in short supply, not all testing sites are available for toddlers or preschoolers, and many testing sites won’t be able to return results quickly enough by the time school resumes, especially with shortened hours for New Year's Eve.
Here are the options for New York City families:
- This website from NYC.gov lists testing locations in the city, including private options (keep in mind that CityMD has temporarily closed some locations);
- Here's a separate website for the testing locations run by NYC Health + Hospitals, the city's public hospital system;
- This site lists state-run testing locations.
You can also find testing sites by calling 311, 212-COVID-19, or by texting "COVID TEST" to 855-48.
NYC Health + Hospitals shares their locations' wait-times online:
No matter which option you choose, you shouldn’t be charged out of pocket for testing at all public testing sites and most private sites, thanks to the federal CARES Act which requires testing to be free to the patient, though your insurance provider may still get billed.
With public schools slated to resume in-person learning on Monday, time is of the essence. City officials said the turnaround time for results from city testing sites is 24-48 hours, though some private sites are reporting significantly longer periods for results — as of Wednesday, private provider LabQ’s website said results were coming back within 1-5 days.
With the New Year’s holiday this weekend, many sites may have reduced availability: some sites are closing early on New Year's Eve and may be closed on New Year’s Day, so check their times first.
“Please note that many of our testing sites will end testing early on Friday, December 31st and will be closed Saturday, January 1st. We will reopen Sunday, January 2nd,” the city Health + Hospitals website said.
The state’s five testing sites in the city will also have reduced hours on New Year's Eve and be closed on New Year's Day.
Another issue for parents of the youngest kids and babies who are required to show a negative COVID test result before returning to preschools or daycares next week, is that many private sites and some of the city's mobile sites will not test kids under the age of 4. Most of the brick-and-mortar testing sites operated by NYC Health & Hospitals will welcome the youngest New Yorkers, city officials said, though parents of kids under the age of 2 need to check with the specific location to ensure they can be tested there.
“Many of these (private) test sites, you know, are not used to handling little children. They're not used to squirming toddlers, but we are at Health + Hospitals, and we will turn no child away and frankly we have the fastest turnaround time for getting that result,” said Dr. Mitchell Katz, the head of NYC Health + Hospitals, at the mayor’s press briefing Tuesday.
Dr. Ted Long, Executive Director of New York City’s Test and Trace, described bringing his own young toddler to a city-run testing site.
“I brought my son who was less than 2 years old when I got him tested the first time to a Health + Hospital site. We do an amazing job,” Long said.
There’s also the option of at-home tests. While the supplies of home test kits at retailers are frequently sold out, the city has promised to distribute at-home tests at the public sites with long lines of waiting New Yorkers.