Partnership to bring COVID testing to Bronx public housing residents

Responder Judy Vidal in East Harlem
Photo courtesy of Judy Vidal

A program designed to bring on-site health services and expanded COVID-19 testing to residents of New York City’s public housing free of cost begins today.

On April 20, New York State announced a partnership with Ready Responders that will bring COVID-19 testing to the homes of public housing residents.

The pilot program will first launch at eight NYCHA sites across the city, including Edenwald, Highbridge and Andrew Jackson Houses in the Bronx, Washington Houses in Manhattan, Queensbridge, Hammel and Red Fern Houses in Queens and Brevoort Houses in Brooklyn.

“To slow the spread of the virus we must continue to increase testing capacity, especially in communities like NYCHA developments and communities of color, where residents have been [disproportionally] impacted by this disease,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said. “As such, I will continue to work with other elected officials, including the governor and mayor, to make testing and health care services more accessible in our communities.”

The Responders have received COVID-19 specific training, including following stringent protocols to help prevent the spread of the virus, and are equipped with the appropriate protective gear, including gowns, N95 masks, goggles and gloves.

The company can also handle non-emergent calls and is prepared to treat a full range of medical issues for which residents often call an ambulance, which is ideal when people are self-quarantining or part of an at-risk population.

Responders will be handing out flyers, providing COVID-19 testing and medical care inside homes per residents’ request or inside community rooms and tented facilities at locations.

Olan Soremekun, Ready Responders chief medical officer, has been with the company three months, but in the emergency medical field for a decade. He explained that people can access Ready Responders via an app or call. They will explain what is wrong and provide insurance information if they have it. The company is open from 8 a.m. to midnight and help usually arrives within an hour.

Soremekun told the Bronx Times they began in New York in April and the calls have been coming nonstop. He explained they hope to help people, especially those in impoverished areas where they often can’t travel to a doctor or receive proper health care.

“In times like these vulnerable patients are the ones who need us the most,” he said. “Our ability to provide that access is a success.”

One person who sees the patients firsthand is a responder, Mayelyn Roja. Roja, 24, has only done this for over a year, but is ready to make a difference. Roja noted that coming to homes where people have COVID or think they might can be emotional and nerve-racking, but she does her best to stay calm and relax the patient.

“I go into every call we’re doing to help someone out,” Roja said. “I got into the field because I wanted to help my community.”

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