Coronavirus News: NYCHA hopes door-to-door tests, new sites will stem COVID-19 spread

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New COVID-19 testing sites opened Friday near several NYCHA sites, and a group is offering in-home testing for residents in the hardest hit complexes.

Additionally, new numbers show the virus is taking its toll on NYCHA employees as well.

NYCHA CEO Greg Russ told Eyewitness News that 342 employees were out sick Friday, either with a confirmed case or presumptive case of COVID-19. He also said that a total of eight workers have now died from complications with the virus.

"NYCHA is a very close knit family of workers," Russ said. "These are hard times, and we realize they are hard times for a lot of people, but hard times for us too."

This week, workers with a company called Ready Responders started a new pilot program, spearheaded by New York state. The medical professionals are going door-to-door in eight NYCHA complexes, performing in-home coronavirus tests.

The nose and throat tests are performed while a doctor video conferences in a push to to get more people tested in what experts believe is likely a hotspot of undetected COVID cases.

At the Red Fern Houses in Far Rockaway, Queens, the responders dawned full protective gear, including masks and gloves. Still, dealing with such a contagious virus inside people's homes, workers say it can be stressful.

"It's a little nerve-racking," responder Mayelyn Rojas said, "But I always try to keep my composure. I keep my head straight just because we have to be the reassurance right now for the patients."

As for the in-person testing locations, those who are most vulnerable will be able to walk in for testing six days a week.

The sites that opened Friday are located at:
--Cumberland Health Center, Crown Heights
--Belvis Health Center, Mott Haven
--Gouverneur Health Center, Lower East Side

Three more testing sites inside NYCHA housing complexes will open next week. They will be located at:
--Jonathan Williams Houses, Williamsburg
--Woodside Houses, Woodside
--St. Nicholas Houses, Harlem

New York state has already been testing at some NYCHA housing complexes, and the new sites come amid a proposal to close some streets.

The City Council's transportation subcommittee held a hearing on their bill that would require the DOT to close up to 75 miles of streets to cars to encourage more social distancing.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said he wants to open space for people to go outside in the nicer weather and avoid crowded parts, but it is unclear where that space will be. H

He said he doesn't believe closing 75 miles of streets will work, citing lack of NYPD and other city resources to police and need for streets to be open to ambulances and other emergency services.

"I think there's too much danger that drivers might still go on those streets and put pedestrians in a danger," the mayor said. "And then the alternative you could say, 'OK, well, block off all the streets, put in lots of enforcement.' Well we can't do that right now. NYPD is still not at the headcount, the sort of troop strength, we want them to be (at), given the number of people out sick. And they have a bunch of additional responsibilities."

He says the NYPD studied a similar program in California and that it would not work in New York City.

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