The NYC Test & Treat Corps, formerly the NYC Test & Trace Corps, was the City’s comprehensive effort to connect all New Yorkers with the critical tools for COVID-19 testing, guidance and treatment. In its three years of dedicated service during the COVID-19 emergency, the Corps provided New Yorkers convenient, widespread access to free testing, rapid connections to COVID-19 treatment and resources to support those recovering from Long COVID.
The Corps launched in June 2020 to provide widespread access to free testing, break chains of viral transmission and provide resources to safely isolate or quarantine for people who’ve been infected with or exposed to COVID-19. From its inception, our mobile testing program pioneered where and how COVID-19 tests can be administered, creating a national model for how to work with community partners to most effectively meet New Yorkers where they are for free testing, without exception. Through every phase of the pandemic, Test & Treat prioritized outreach to the city’s most impacted communities and adapted its program to provide the most effective, state of the art resources for New Yorkers to stay healthy and our city to safely recover.
Test & Treat operated a testing network of hundreds of city-run testing locations where New Yorkers can get tested at no cost or pick up free at-home tests. City-run testing sites performed over 15 million tests and distributed 80 million at-home tests through Test & Treat’s network of approximately 1,300 at-home test distribution locations, including walk-up sites at nearly 300 public libraries, cultural institutions and NYC Parks locations and over 1,000 partnerships with community- and faith-based organizations. In 2022, Test & Treat’s In-School Surveillance Testing Program administered nearly 2.5 million PCR surveillance tests to New York City students and school staff, ensuring schools remained open and the safest place for young people to be.
As the tools available to fight COVID-19 evolved, so did Test & Treat’s response. Treatment must be a defining feature of this phase of the pandemic, given the critical opportunity to save lives by getting New Yorkers their test results as quickly as possible and immediately connecting them to life-saving therapeutics.
In partnership with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the NYC Test & Treat Corps built two pathways to expedite access to treatment. In June 2022, the Corps launched the nation’s first Test to Treat mobile program, which allowed on-site clinicians to prescribe anti-viral treatments like Paxlovid minutes after a positive test.
In addition, the Corps created and NYC Health + Hospitals continues to operate a unique COVID-19 Hotline (212-COVID19) to connect New Yorkers who test positive — including those using an at-home test — directly to clinicians who can prescribe Paxlovid and arrange to have it delivered to patients’ homes that same day. The hotline, operated by clinicians with NYC Health + Hospitals’ Virtual ExpressCare platform, expanded in partnership with the NYS Department of Health to provide a statewide hotline for all New York state residents.
These proactive measures have provided a national model for how to effectively distribute COVID-19 medications. A paper published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association recognized that the widespread, equitable distribution of COVID-19 treatments in New York City has driven its Paxlovid utilization rate as of late June 50% higher than the national rate. The study also found that the high utilization of Paxlovid has potentially resulted in significant reductions in the number of hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions.
Over the first two years of the pandemic, the Test & Treat Corps helped New Yorkers safely quarantine or isolate through its historic contact tracing effort — the largest and most comprehensive city-run contact tracing initiative in the country. The Trace program — which began in June 2020 and concluded at the end of April 2022, in accordance with CDC recommendations — reached 1.7 million New Yorkers with COVID-19 and identified 1.8 million close contacts, ultimately engaging with more than 30% of the city’s population.
The regular communication our program’s contact tracers had with New Yorkers who were infected with or exposed to COVID-19 ensured that they could effectively quarantine and isolate, breaking chains of transmission and stopping the spread of the virus. Contact tracers ensured New Yorkers infected with or exposed to COVID-19 were referred to the information and resources needed to safely separate and recover. Their efforts helped deliver 2.3 million meals and 600,000 care packages to those in quarantine or isolation, connected 32,000 New Yorkers to hotel rooms to safely isolate, provided millions of dollars in cash assistance and scheduled thousands of appointments for testing and vaccination.
Using the insights of our contact tracing program, NYC Test & Treat created a Quarantine and Isolation Guidance Tool to provide personalized guidance to New Yorkers who are exposed to, test positive for or have symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
Vaccinations and Outreach
NYC Health + Hospitals continues to vaccinate and boost New Yorkers. To date, the health system, along with the NYC Test & Treat Corps, has administered over 2.1 million doses. This effort has played a critical role in the city’s vaccination campaign, which has provided at least one dose to 98% of city adults. Eligible New Yorkers are encouraged to get vaccinated and stay up to date with their booster doses. Please make an appointment by using the city’s COVID-19 vaccine finder.
When COVID-19 vaccinations became available in December 2020, the NYC Test & Treat Corps helped build the city’s vaccine infrastructure to clear barriers to access and led its outreach effort to increase vaccine confidence and demand. Within months, the Corps opened three mass vaccination sites providing walk-in vaccinations 24 hours a day to all who were eligible. That included Citi Field, which provided nearly 300,000 vaccinations, the most of any city-run site.
To provide vaccines directly to all New York City’s communities, and especially those most impacted and hardest to reach, the Corps launched a mobile vaccination fleet in April 2021. Soon after, it created the option for New Yorkers to schedule in-home vaccination appointments. When in-school learning resumed in September 2021, the Corps sent mobile vaccination units to every public school in New York City to help protect our students. Together, the mobile and in-home vaccination programs alone vaccinated over 300,000 New Yorkers. This effort – the largest mobile vaccination campaign in the country — made vaccines accessible to all and kept our city safe.
Throughout the pandemic, the Corps engaged New York’s diverse communities as trusted partners in our outreach efforts. We worked with hundreds of community and faith-based organizations to provide accessible, community-informed testing and vaccination sites, and to educate New Yorkers about the importance of testing and vaccination. This effort included a partnership with over 60 community-based organizations (CBOs) funded to do vaccine-related outreach throughout the city. Since the launch of our partnerships in July 2020, CBOs engaged over 4.7 million members of their communities and provided over 2 million people vaccine information.
In addition, our Outreach program’s teams walked thousands of miles across the city as they knocked 1.7 million doors and handed out over 40 million masks and 12 million pamphlets with information about testing and vaccination. These conversations helped secure 1.7 million commitments to testing and scheduled over 500,000 vaccination appointments.
Street Health Outreach + Wellness
In April 2021, the Corps launched the Street Health Outreach + Wellness (SHOW) program, an unprecedented effort to extend COVID-19 testing, vaccination, treatment and medical and social resources focused on the city’s most vulnerable residents, including unsheltered New Yorkers experiencing homelessness. Since then, SHOW has provided 134,000 meaningful engagements, including 67,000 COVID tests, 12,800 medical consultations, 7,000 vaccinations and over 35,000 social worker engagements. In May 2022, the program was recognized as a Fast Company World Changing Ideas Finalist for its grassroots work extending clinics beyond the traditional boundaries of healthcare.
For many people COVID-related health complications can continue for weeks or months. Studies show that 10 to 15% of infections lead to Long COVID, a wide range of new, ongoing or returning symptoms patients may experience 28 days or more after their initial infection.
New York City has worked to ensure that no one suffers from Long COVID in silence. In April 2021, the NYC Test & Treat Corps launched AfterCare to reach out to people who had tested positive for COVID-19 and provide support for New Yorkers living with Long COVID. The program, which has referred over 300,000 people to resources to date, connects New Yorkers with ongoing health and social needs to a wide range of referrals related to Long COVID, including physical and mental health services, financial assistance, community support and NYC Health + Hospitals COVID-19 Centers of Excellence.
In February 2022, NYC Health + Hospitals opened its third COVID-19 Center of Excellence in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The other two Centers of Excellence are in Tremont, Bronx and Elmhurst, Queens. All of the sites are located in neighborhoods that were significantly affected by COVID-19. These centers ensure offer New Yorkers dedicated short- and long-term follow-up care for Long COVID, including pulmonary care and supplemental oxygen, cardiological care, diagnostic radiology services, comprehensive mental health services and examination rooms with special technology to safely isolate patients who may have COVID-19.
If you or a loved one are suffering from or think you may have Long COVID, please call 212-COVID19 (212-268-4319), select your preferred language and press 4 to speak directly to an AfterCare navigator. Please visit the AfterCare website and review the Long COVID recovery guide for more information about Long COVID and the resources available to you.