While you wait for Covid-19 results, read this

The rapid rise of popup antigen and PCR testing labs in NYC has been incredible.

I’m recently Covid-free, having tested four times at a public pop-up lab, once at an expensive pharmacy, once in a truck, six times with rapid at-home tests, and once at a free clinic over the last month. I live in Lower Manhattan, and we are hoping it doesn’t remain a ghost town here, so we’re doing our part by masking up and testing and isolating when needed.

actual Manhattan evening in 2022, around 7pm — there should always be people

So, after all of this as well as having Covid-19, isolating, and being set free again, I am a casual expert at the different types of tests (PCR, Antigen, the rapid versions of each) and where you can get them, how to book, and whether they hurt (nope) and how fast the turnaround is for the results (15 minutes up to 72 hours, depending) and how much they cost (look for the word “free” or it isn’t).

(For those who don’t know: fastest is the Rapid Antigen test you can buy over the counter=DIY and results in 15 minutes. Slowest but most accurate is the PCR test=24 hrs minimum or pay a lot for “rapid” 2 hr turnaround, remember to also add waiting in line or scheduling time to how long it takes. Here’s a chart for accuracy of the various tests done by Yale Medical.)

I was in midtown, because I’d heard the lines are shorter there. (They are.) And I found this tent that had only one person being tested. So I stopped to chat with the guy doing the testing (he requested anonymity because a lot of people who are anti-getting-vaccinated apparently also want to make it hard on the people whose job it is to give vaccines to anyone who is pro-getting-vaccinated.)

Anyway, this guy, he was excited. He did some math for me: At his testing tents, the consumer pays nothing, so many New Yorkers apparently go ahead and get tested whenever they see a tent with no one in it. (It is for the safety of others — we who are boosted tend towards asymptomatic carrying of the virus and even though we wear masks everywhere, if we don’t know we have it, we don’t try to isolate from the rest of you who are not boosted or can’t/won’t vaccinate, so we might accidentally infect you even though we’re actually considerate people.)

When I noted his lack of clients, he said this tent had tested only fifty people that day, because it was a brand new tent in a new location — he expected it to be more busy once people discovered it. But let’s say that 50 people is a terribly low count, with thirty new tents, if each tent had a terrible day... His eyes lit up with the thought of it. “That’s still fifteen hundred tests,” he said, “and New York City pays $30 for each one!”

By this guy’s math, that’s $45,000 that NYC is shelling out, just for one day of one lab’s testing.

And there are countless tents out there. And many of them have lines around the block.

That’s a lot of Q-tips, my friends. Hats off to the governments both federal and state for covering all these tests. We want to repopulate our beautiful city. I keep going out and finding empty streets in my neighborhood. That isn’t supposed to happen, this City is not supposed to sleep.

Get tested. Get boosted. Get well.

Nightscapes like this one should be only found in dreams and fairy tales.



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M. M. De Voe

Fictionista, collector of obscure awards, admirer of optimists in the face of dread. Author of Book&Baby, an acclaimed guide for writer-parents. mmdevoe.com