Traveling during the holidays can be stressful. Traveling during the holidays in a pandemic can be overwhelming.
In an effort to reduce travel stress and minimize required quarantine periods, Islip Town officials and American Family Care medical professionals unveiled a COVID-19 testing appointment system Nov. 17, that will be conducted at MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma.
Beginning Nov. 17, AFC Urgent Care personnel will be available on-premises with mobile equipment that will allow travelers to make reservations for COVID-19 tests. Personnel can also answer questions about New York State travel guidelines.
AFC physician Dr. Robert Levy said both traditional PCR tests and rapid tests will be available at the airport.
There are two types of rapid tests, he said: a rapid antigen and a rapid molecular. The majority of travelers will be getting a rapid antigen test. Both evaluations provide results in roughly 15 minutes, Dr. Levy said, but it can take several days to receive results from the PCR test.
“It’s not a practical way to test everybody in an effort to mitigate the pandemic,” Dr. Levy said of PCR tests. “They’re slightly more accurate than the rapid test, but we don’t want to lose the big picture, which is that even the rapid test… is still a fantastic way for us to mitigate the pandemic by catching folks who are positive.”
While test method accuracy percentages vary, Dr. Levy said, the rapid tests are 90-95 percent sensitive and PCR tests are 95-98 percent sensitive.
At a press conference, airport commissioner Shelley LaRose-Arken said the testing option is intended to make travel easier.
“Some of the regulations out there can be a little confusing, and we’re really wanting to make it easier and help people comply, with not only the New York quarantine, but the state regulations,” LaRose-Arken said.
Islip Town supervisor Angie Carpenter said the town is working closely with state officials to comply with regulations.
On Oct. 31, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that out-of-state travelers can “test out” of the mandatory 14-day quarantine. Travelers must get tested within three days prior to landing in New York, quarantine for at least three days upon arrival, and get a test on the fourth day of their arrival. If they receive another negative test, they may end their quarantine.
Carpenter said she hopes the airport testing site “takes some of the stress out of the testing policy” and “helps make travel safer while providing passengers peace of mind and confidence in their compliance.”
Dr. Daniel La of ACP said testing is critical to contain the spread of COVID-19.
“We are offering a significantly valuable service which will make it easier to travel by air to arrive in Long Island safely with minimum inconvenience,” Dr. La said.
AFC, which has over 200 Urgent Care locations across 26 states, currently has two locations in Islip Town: in Ronkonkoma and West Islip.
LaRose-Arken said the airport was the first to implement a 24/7 operating air purifier system. Antimicrobial films were also installed in touch surfaces at the airport, and a personal protective equipment vending machine was installed.