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New York launches drive-thru testing site for COVID-19

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has deployed the National Guard and created a one-mile containment zone around the town of New Rochelle, just north of New York City, where at least 158 cases of COVID-19 have been reported. And on Friday, the state launched its first drive-thru mobile testing facility in the region. NewsHour Weekend's Christopher Booker has more.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Confirmed cases in the U.S. Continued to rise today–with more than 2,200 now reported–many in the hot spots in Washington state, California, and New York. In the city of New Rochelle — just north of New York City — mandatory restrictions are in place and new testing began yesterday. NewsHour Weekend's Christopher Booker has the latest.

  • Christopher Booker:

    In a commandeered county park, New York state's first drive-thru testing site for novel Coronavirus is fully operational. Governor Andrew Cuomo says the site can process up to 200 tests a day.

  • Gov. Cuomo:

    There are six lanes that are operating. You drive in in your car and the medical staff comes to you, does the test, takes the swabs and then you pull out. The swabs get sent to a laboratory, they do the testing, we get the results back to the person.

  • Christopher Booker:

    The mobile testing center will serve all residents of Westchester county. But officials are prioritizing people in New Rochelle, the town where it's located. It's one of America's hotspots for COVID-19.

    Most of the city's cases originated from Young Israel Synagogue of New Rochelle. Earlier this week it was made the center of a "containment area" by the state of New York.

    For two weeks, for one mile in every direction, large gatherings would be banned: that meant closing schools, local colleges, and community centers, as well as religious institutions.

    The state's national guard would also be deployed.

  • Mayor Noam Bramson:

    It's a sensible means of controlling the spread of the virus in an area where it has a high concentration. But it's not an exclusion zone. It's not a quarantine zone. No one is prevented from entering or leaving.

  • Christopher Booker:

    Noam Bramson is the mayor of New Rochelle. He says the state national guard's role in the containment area is limited.

  • Mayor Noam Bramson:

    The guard is here in New Rochelle to provide logistical and operational support, principally delivering meals to students who cannot receive them at the public schools, providing supplies, providing cleaning services to large facilities. These are things that will be entirely beyond the capacity of a municipality the size of New Rochelle. So we're grateful to have their support, but they're not here in a military or policing function. And I think it's very important to draw that distinction.

  • Christopher Booker:

    But while there are no prohibitions on coming and going from the containment area, it's designation has already had a significant impact on local businesses.

  • Daniel Mottoa:

    I mean, this is like a ghost town. This is really slow. People scared.

  • Christopher Booker:

    Daniel Mottoa is the co-owner of Chicken Joes. It's about a mile from the synagogue and right on the edge of the containment area.

    He says his takeout spot is usually filled with customers, most of them from the nearby high school and Iona College, which is located right across the street.

    The college's administration cancelled all in-person classes until April 10th.

    Mottoa says he's already cut back on his workforce.

  • Daniel Mottoa:

    I sent two people out to their home. I mean, there's no business. You know, we're really slow. Just Pedro and I right now–just two people. But what else can I do?. I mean, I'm trying to keep the business open as long as I can.

  • Christopher Booker:

    Like many around the country, people here are stocking up on food and other essentials or staying home.

    At the Shoprite in New Rochelle, Carolina Morales says she's nervous for her grandchildren — three of whom live with her — whose schools in nearby Mamaroneck are closed for at least two weeks.

  • Carolina Morales:

    I buy all the frozen foods because we can keep it for longer. We buy rice, bread, and other stuff. Cleaning stuff. You know? We're scared. You know, for the kids and we keep them home now. We have to prepare the food and we'll see.

  • Christopher Booker:

    Mayor Noam Bramson says the city is getting the support that it needs from the county and state government.

    And while he acknowledges that New Rochelle is still in the midst of the crisis, he hopes other cities can learn from the approach that New Rochelle has taken.

  • Mayor Noam Bramson:

    I think we're earlier than other cities, but many, many others will face circumstances similar to ours. And if we can serve as a positive example for how a community can come together and confront this challenge in an intelligent and calm and measured way, then we will have done a service.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Chris, I know the mobile testing center has only been open since yesterday, but how many tests have they been able to administer?

  • Christopher Booker:

    We were told that yesterday 150 cars came through the mobile center, but we don't know how many tests were performed. Earlier today, the governor did say they anticipate performing up to 200 tests today and up to 500 tests a day in coming days.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    How does it work? I mean, does anybody from the entire county, do they just drive up there?

  • Christopher Booker:

    No, it's not like a fast food drive-through. You have to have an appointment. And the way this happens is you call the New York Health Department. And if you meet certain criteria–you're showing symptoms, you've been in contact with someone who has a confirmed case, or you recently traveled to one of the hotspots — then you might be able to get an appointment.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    This is just one facility. It is in New Rochelle. What about the rest of the state? The state's one of the big epicenters of a lot of cases for the country.

  • Christopher Booker:

    Well, just yesterday, the state did receive FDA approval to have 28 labs perform manual tests. The governor says they anticipate this will increase the number of tests dramatically, going up to 6, 000 tests a day. So far, they've only performed three thousand tests in total.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Chris, we have any idea how the virus is spreading in New York?

  • Christopher Booker:

    Right now, what we know, and this will certainly change, is that there are over 500 confirmed cases in New York state. The majority of which are in New York City. And just this morning, New York state reported its first death. An 82-year-old woman in New York City who had been suffering from emphysema did indeed die from the coronavirus.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Christopher Booker joining us from New Rochelle tonight. Thanks so much.

  • Christopher Booker:

    Thank you.

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