‘We have been physically threatened, screamed at’: Somers COVID-19 testing site nears its limits amid holiday surge
As the demand for COVID-19 testing ahead of the holidays strains resources throughout the region, it is also pushing the limits of the staff who operate the testing sites. Early Monday, Healthy Therapeutics, a Somers drive-through testing facility, sent its patients a lengthy email that included apologies for delays and missteps and a plea for patients to remember that the organization is run by people who are trying their best during a difficult time.
“Please note we have seen a seismic change in volume in the last week,” the note began. “Testing has increased ten-fold. We usually see 50 to 60 patients a day and we saw 300 to 500 patients a day, Wednesday through Saturday.”
Felix Obeng, operations manager for Healthy Therapeutics, which operates six locations in New York, told the North Salem Post that the Somers location had recently increased its staff from two to eight to try to keep pace with increased demand. However, he noted that the facility still needs more workers to help process administrative tasks. Obeng said he was unsure how long the facility could sustain its current demand for testing. “That’s a big question,” he said. “We’re adding more staff and hiring every day.”
In its email to patients Monday, Healthy Therapeutics said, “we have been accused of being scammers and worse which I cannot mention here. In the last few days we have been physically threatened, screamed at and harshly reviewed online. We persist and work through it and our staff has been working around the clock for our patients.”
Obeng explained that Healthy Therapeutics is reliant on third party labs to process test results in a timely manner. “People don’t understand that,” Obeng said. “We depend on these labs to get us these results.” At the same time, he stressed that the practice is trying its best to meet the needs of the community.
Midday Tuesday, the line of cars waiting for testing wrapped around the building. One woman, frustrated about the timeline for testing and results, yelled from her car window at a staff member. “You should let people know if it will be longer than an hour,” she shouted. “I’m on my lunch break!” A moment later, she pulled out of the line.
The long lines of cars have affected the two businesses adjacent to the testing site. At Taste Deli, owner Tom Caridi said the constant stream of cars filling the parking lot had caused some would-be customers to go elsewhere. On Tuesday afternoon, Caridi stepped out of the deli to help direct a driver to the appropriate place in the car line for testing. Next door at The Dry Cleaner, employee Mike Signorile said he had watched the rapid rise in activity at the testing site, though he expressed empathy for the people seeking testing.
“Up until the past couple weeks it wasn’t bad,” Signorile said. “Now it’s gotten extremely bad. I think everybody is afraid. I don’t blame a soul for that.”
Healthy Therapeutics asked its patients to bear with them during this period. “We ask for human understanding and compassion, during this global pandemic and unprecedented viral blizzard,” they wrote in their email. “We will keep at it, and fight the good fight, trying to provide as much access to testing as possible.”