Coronavirus testing in New York City, over the past few weeks, has increased to include anyone with symptoms, as well as those who have been in close contact with a confirmed case. But with a limited number of testing centers open so far in Brooklyn, the waiting list is long.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has called ramping up testing “crucial to any strategy to drive back this disease.” However, the city’s capacity remains at around 13,000 tests per week, an insufficient number for large scale testing.

Dr. Mason Pimsler (right) addressed Brownsville residents at a community event in 2015. The doctor has since moved to a clinic on Long Island. Photo: BK Reader

That is why Dr. Mason Pimsler, a former Brookdale Hospital doctor, says residents who want testing sooner rather than later should consider looking outside their borough.

Pimsler is an internist at a Federally Qualified Health Center affiliated with Nassau University Medical Center and Northwell Health in Roosevelt. He says many former patients from his time at Brownsville’s Brookdale Hospital have followed him out to Long Island, because they’re finding it a challenge to get tested in the city.

He estimates that between 70 and 80 percent of the patients who come into his clinic — many of whom show no symptoms of coronavirus — later test positive for the disease.

The low number of testing sites and the mixed messaging around who should be tested is still an obstacle for patients, according to Pimsler, who called the city’s instructions for getting tested “very convoluted.”

“The masses of people are not getting straight information about where they can or can’t go,” he said.

One former patient of Pimsler’s from his time at Brookdale Hospital was Zoe Mungin, a 30-year-old Bushwick charter school teacher who died from coronavirus complications after seeking a test in Brooklyn and being denied twice.

As an FQHC, Pimsler’s clinic treats patients whether or not they have health insurance, and charges on a sliding scale, allowing low-income patients to pay what they can afford.

Dr. Pimsler (right) says patients are looking outside the borough to get tested for coronavirus.
Photo: Courtesy Dr. Mason Pimsler

Patients arriving at the clinic receive a questionnaire about their symptoms, but “whether they meet the protocol or not, we still test them if they choose to be tested,” Pimsler said. “And I’ll tell you why: Because we want to know how many people can have asymptomatic COVID-19 that have been walking around. And I’m finding a lot of that.”

He estimates that between 70 and 80 percent of the patients who come into his clinic — many of whom show no symptoms of coronavirus — later test positive for the disease.

For treatment, Pimsler is deploying a combination of steroids, inhalers and antibiotics for coronavirus patients with mild to moderate symptoms and getting “really excellent results,” he said.

Pimsler hopes the media attention around patients like Mungin will put pressure on the city to ensure people who need tests aren’t denied going forward.

“I think it’s going to change now after all these newspaper stories,” he said. “And it should, because it’s important to test.”

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Alex Williamson

Alex Williamson is a Brooklyn-based reporter whose work has appeared in Brooklyn Eagle, Queens Eagle, Gothamist and elsewhere.

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