Gov. Cuomo announces expansion in criteria for COVID-19 testing; local pharmacies to play a role

First responders, health care professionals and essential workers will soon be able to receive COVID-19 tests at pharmacies and testing sites across the state in an expansion plan announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo Saturday.

The governor said he is issuing an executive order that will allow independent pharmacies to collect the tests and send them to state authorized laboratories. The initiative will create the capacity for the state to expand COVID-19 testing criteria to include individuals who are working in the public during the shutdown, the governor said.

“These essential workers, and God bless them, we want to make sure they can get tested,” he said. “These are the people you’re interacting with.”

Testing since the virus hit New York last month has mostly been limited to individuals who are symptomatic of COVID-19, including those suffering from high fevers and shortness of breath. In total about 730,000 New York State residents have been tested for the coronavirus with more than 271,000 testing positive.

While Mr. Cuomo said some larger pharmacy chains had already been collecting testing samples, Saturday’s executive order will enable it to be done at the more than 5,000 licensed pharmacies across the state.

Local pharmacies contacted Saturday said they had not yet received guidance on how the program would work or if and when they might be able to perform the tests.

The governor also announced Saturday an expansion in antibody testing that will begin at hospitals and with first responders in New York City. Those tests would not be available at pharmacies.

Below is a list of occupations now authorized for COVID-19 testing.