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Following push, Congressman Higgins announces new retail coronavirus testing sites coming to Niagara Falls & Buffalo

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Tue, May 5th 2020 10:50 am

Rite Aid plans for drive-thru locations in WNY urban centers

Congressman Brian Higgins has received confirmation Rite Aid is planning to locate two new drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites in Western New York: one in the City of Niagara Falls and one in Buffalo’s coronavirus hotspot within the 14215 ZIP code.

Last week, with no testing available to residents within the City of Niagara Falls, Higgins, City of Niagara Falls Mayor Robert M. Restaino, Niagara County Legislature Minority Leader Dennis Virtuoso and Legislators Mark Grozio, Owen Steed and Chris Robins joined together to ask the national testing czar, Assistant Secretary for Health Admr. Brett Giroir to include the City of Niagara Falls as a priority location for the establishment of retail self-swab testing locations.

Higgins’ office also reached out to retail operators to advocate for locations in the City of Niagara Falls and in Buffalo’s 14215 ZIP code. An emergency relief package, approved by Congress, provided the $73.2 million in federal funding toward a contract between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and certain retail establishments to support drive-thru testing sites. The only retail testing site currently operating in Western New York is located at the Walmart in the Town of Cheektowaga.

Late Monday, Rite Aid confirmed plans to accommodate drive-thru testing at its locations at 1030 Pine Ave., Niagara Falls; and 2474 Bailey Ave., Buffalo.

Higgins said, “Access to testing has been a problem and continues to remain a critical component of reducing community spread and informing the reopening of our economy. We appreciate Rite Aid’s response to our call to place testing sites in some of the region’s hardest hit areas.”

Restaino said, “Niagara Falls has been the center of the COVID-19 crisis in Niagara County; despite that fact our repeated pleas for increased diagnostic testing for the city have been to no avail. With the regions of New York state hoping to reopen soon, Niagara Falls remained without adequate testing. Congressman Higgins heard my request for help and did something about it. His effort in joining myself and our county legislators from Niagara Falls to advocate for testing has resulted in this increased opportunity to map the spread of the virus in the city. I know on behalf of all public officials representing Niagara Falls, we thank Congressman Higgins for his strong advocacy in this health crisis and we are grateful to the Rite-Aid Corp. for delivering testing to our center city.”

Virtuoso added, "Getting additional testing into urban communities is critically important. I was pleased to work alongside Congressman Higgins, Mayor Restaino and my colleagues in the County Legislature to advocate for this kind of testing right here in the heart of Niagara Falls."

As of Sunday, Erie County had 3,749 confirmed cases of coronavirus with 292 confirmed cases in the City of Buffalo’s 14215 ZIP code, nearly twice as many as any other area within the county. Niagara County had 529 confirmed cases, with more than a quarter of the cases countywide (136) represented by residents living in the City of Niagara Falls.

Rite Aid currently operates 25 drive-thru self-swab testing sites including at New York stores in Albany, Utica and Valley College. At these sites, Rite Aid pharmacists oversee self-swab nasal tests administered in store parking lots with residents staying in their vehicles.

Rite Aid told Higgins’ office it is exploring safe ways to accommodate tests for those walking up or arriving by way of public transportation.

Coordination and training is currently underway, but Rite Aid said it hoped to have the Buffalo and Niagara Falls testing sites up and running within the next week or so.

Adults wishing to be tested for the disease will need to pre-register on the Rite Aid website once the sites are open. Additional details will be provided in the coming days.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, approved by the House of Representatives on March 14, directed that testing be provided without cost-sharing for patients regardless of their insurer.

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