For months, thousands of concerned New Yorkers have been unable to get tested for coronavirus as the state scrambled to set up more sites, but now Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced an expansion of testing – with protesters getting top priority.
The categories of those who can be tested for COVID-19 has been expanding as the availability of tests improves. They now include symptomatic individuals, anyone who has had close contact with a COVID-positive person, and health care and essential workers among other categories.
On Thursday, Cuomo added any individual who has attended recent protests across the state in response to the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.
“Many of them wear masks, thank God, but there's no social distancing. You look at the encounters with the police, the police are right in their face, they're right in the face of the police. Twenty thousand protestors in New York City. Thousand protestors on Long Island. These are big numbers,” he said.
“We're going to open the testing facilities for all people who were at a protest,” he said, warning that one person could be a “super spreader” and infect hundreds of people. “If you were at a protest, go get a test, please. The protesters have a civic duty here also. Be responsible, get a test.”
On social media, some users complained that this comes after tests were hard to come by for many residents. One protester also noted that the demand from demonstrators has already led to a test shortage:
New York has been under a strict lockdown for months, and there was a jarring contrast as packed protests have been allowed to go on for days, while churches and even playgrounds in New York City are kept closed.
Cuomo’s comments come as New York begins to consider its “Phase 2” reopening plan amid the coronavirus pandemic. New York City has yet to begin its “Phase 1,” which is not expected until next week.
Cuomo also told New Yorkers at the press conference that “If you were at one of those protests, I would, out of an abundance of caution, assume that you are infected.”
Cuomo warned earlier this week that protests could be “counterproductive” to months spent working to slow the spread of coronavirus, and said they “could potentially be infecting hundreds and hundreds of people, after everything that we have done."
"New York City opens next week, it took us 93 days to get here. Is this smart?" Cuomo said of the mass protests. "We have to take a minute and ask ourselves, 'what are we doing here?'"
Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.