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How to get a free Covid test in New York

New York City officials are scrambling to bolster the city’s testing infrastructure as coronavirus cases surge — largely fueled by a highly contagious subvariant of the virus — but a dispute over Election year in Washington, DC, means some New Yorkers may have to pay to get tested.

Because emergency federal aid for tests, vaccines and treatments has stalled, some providers are no longer able to offer free testing to everyone, regardless of insurance status. But New York City officials have said testing at city-run sites will remain free for all.

Coronavirus cases in New York have increased 77% in the past two weeks, according to a New York Times tracker. The increase is largely due to BA.2, a highly contagious subvariant of the Omicron strain, and a relaxation of pandemic restrictions.

City officials said testing is a crucial tool not only for tracking the spread of the virus, but also for stopping transmission. Here’s what you need to know to get tested in New York.

Senators reached a $10 billion deal this week on emergency aid for tests, vaccines and therapies, but it has stalled amid an election dispute over immigration policy. With Congress set to leave for a planned two-week suspension, the final passage may not occur until the end of the month, meaning some uninsured people may have to pay out of pocket for testing.

Mayor Eric Adams and health officials announced April 1 that the city would not let the delay in Washington prevent the city from providing free testing and vaccination services through New York City Health and Hospitals.

“We believe health care is a human right and we serve every New Yorker regardless of ability to pay or immigration status,” said Hospitals President and CEO Dr. Mitchell Katz.

A number of other providers offer testing across the city. The city’s website includes a list of all sites offering testing, including those outside of the city’s health system. The state health department also lists testing sites on its website.

But if you’re getting tested at a site that isn’t run by the city or state, it’s best to ask ahead of time if you’ll be charged. It’s also a good idea to check with your insurer if there will be any charges involved for the tests.

New York state officials have operated a number of mass testing sites, including in New York City, throughout the pandemic. They reduced many of them as Omicron’s winter surge waned. The state has the ability to reopen sites through June if needed.

City officials have suggested that all New Yorkers get tested, including those who do not have symptoms of Covid-19 or who are at increased risk of developing serious illness from the virus.

Some test sites have age requirements, however. For example, many mobile testing sites run by NYC Health and Hospitals only test people over the age of 4. And the home kits are for people over 2 years old.

Sites that aren’t run by the city or state may have other restrictions for testing, like requiring recent exposure to the virus, so it’s best to ask the site ahead of time.

Emily Cochrane contributed reporting.


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