A nurse handed Stephanie Robertson a nasal swab to collect specimen from both of her nostrils for a Covid-19 test. She swabbed one nostril, but forgot the other.
The nurse gently reminded her to swab the second nostril. She complied. In less than five minutes Robertson had completed her self-administered Covid-19 test.
“It wasn’t painful at all,” said Robertson (pictured) at the Division of Health parking lot on Monday morning after handing over her specimen. She underwent the regular medical professional administered Covid-19 test in June. “It was more painful, more uncomfortable,” she recalled.
Robertson, an intern at the Board of Health, was the first person tested by the Paterson Mobile Testing Unit. Health officer Paul Persaud said approximately 50 of his co-workers will receive testing via the mobile unit.
“We want to take this to the neighborhoods that need it the most,” said mayor Andre Sayegh. Access to testing has been a major problem in Paterson since Covid-19 struck in March. “We have to be prepared for a potential second wave.”
Mobile testing will be conducted Monday through Saturday in all six wards of Paterson. Testing will be administered from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.
A testing session will also run from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
“We’re doing nontraditional hours. We’re doing weekend testing and we’re doing evening and night testing,” said Persaud. “We’re trying to make testing more effective and better.”
Persaud said traditional testing windows result in some people “falling through the cracks.” He said those people, who may be symptomatic or asymptomatic, might not get tested as a result. He described the city’s effort as “client-centered.”
The tests will be conducted under the supervision of a healthcare professional to ensure patients are correctly self-administering them, said Persaud.
Robertson’s specimen will be sent to LabCorp for analysis. She and other patients can expect their results within 24 to 48 hours, said health officer Paul Persaud.
Persaud said patients will receive a phone call or text message from the Division of Health when their result becomes available.
Number of tests per day will depend on volume of people, said Persaud. Municipal officials are spending $843,000 in federal Cares Act funds to ramp up testing ahead of the cold months.
Persaud said testing will begin on October 5 and run through November. If a vaccine becomes available, the mobile testing unit will be converted to vaccinate residents against the virus, said the mayor.
This is the first time the municipal government is conducting its own testing. Previously, the city outsourced testing to private companies and doctors, efforts that proved ineffective and at times resulted in failures.
344 people have died of Covid-19 in Paterson. On Sunday, Paterson saw five new cases of the virus.
Persaud said residents can call (973) 321-1277 to arrange for a Covid-19 test.
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