NEW YORK (Reuters) – As U.S. officials scrambled to increase the country’s capacity to test for coronavirus last week, at least 100 executives and other middle-class New Yorkers have had easy access to testing, two familiar sources say with the activities of a little-known medical service for the better-off.
These people paid a membership fee of $ 5,000 per year for a medical concierge service in New York City called Sollis Health, which worked with Enzo Clinical Labs Inc to test its limbs for COVID-19, the sources said.
The deal gave members, which include people from the finance, entertainment, advertising and media industries, access to home testing at a time when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that the state only had the capacity to test a few hundred patients per day. Both sources declined to provide the identities of people the company tested for the coronavirus and Reuters could not establish them.
Demand for the coronavirus testing services provided by Sollis highlights the lack of preparedness of public health facilities. The access it has provided to its members is the latest example of how well-off people got coronavirus tests in a time of scarcity.
Sollis is part of a lucrative cottage industry, where membership fees can run into the tens of thousands of dollars per year for services such as special access to doctors and private emergency rooms. These companies have found a niche in wealthy cities like New York and San Francisco as the wealthy seek access to better health care. Reuters could not determine whether other medical concierge services also offer coronavirus testing.
The company screened the requests and only tested patients who had symptoms that warranted further investigation, per New York Department of Health guidelines, a source said.
Over the past few days, questions have arisen on Twitter about how some celebrities, sports teams and bankers managed to pass the tests when they were hard to find.
“It is clear that there is access beyond what most Americans see is available,” said Dr. Jake Deutsch, clinical director of New York-based Cure Urgent Care, commenting on the wider lack. of tests. “Hope we have mass testing soon, it shouldn’t be based on your class or any other factor other than symptoms.”
Deutsch’s New York-based practice began testing patients on Saturday and offers walk-in visits to people from different socio-economic backgrounds, including people on Medicare, he said. .
One of those tested by Deutsch’s practice was social media influencer Arielle Charnas, who posted her results on Instagram. Deutsch said Charnas, a friend, was ill and had not received special treatment. Charnas did not respond to a request for comment.
So far, at least 10,990 cases of the novel coronavirus have been reported in the United States and 95 people have died from the COVID-19 disease, according to a Reuters tally from state and local government websites Tuesday after -midday.
For a graph, click on tmsnrt.rs/2w7hX9T
HEALTH CARE FOR THE ELITE
Sollis Health has offices in the Upper East Side and Tribeca neighborhoods of Manhattan. “In the emergency room, you’ll wait 5 hours. Our doctors can treat most medical problems immediately, ”he says on his website. “It can take weeks to see the best specialists. We will let you in right away.
The company began inquiring about testing for the coronavirus in late February, as cases began to spread in Italy, the person familiar with the matter said. Some of its members had traveled to the affected areas and wanted to be tested, the person said.
His doctors have contacted the New York Department of Health for coronavirus testing. They were able to perform several, but found that testing availability was limited, the person said. They also used swabs to perform tests for other types of respiratory illnesses, which, if diagnosed, could help reduce the likelihood that the limb also has COVID-19, the person said.
The New York Department of Health did not respond to a request for comment on its relationship with Sollis.
On March 6, Enzo Biochem Inc ENZ.N said he would start accepting samples for COVID-19 testing in his lab from the following week. Enzo, who already works for Sollis Health, told the company it could do the testing for its members, the source said.
Reporting by Anna Irrera and Koh Gui Qing. Editing by Paritosh Bansal and Edward Tobin