As told to Laura Casado
- Oswald Mendez is an entrepreneur and small business owner who has lived most of his life in New York City.
- On April 27, Mendez went to get the coronavirus antibody test at an urgent care clinic in Manhattan, wanting to take every precaution possible before his 76-year-old mother comes to stay with him in mid-May.
- Mendez visited three different clinics in lower Manhattan, waited for over an hour before getting tested, and was told to expect his results in 3 to 5 business days.
- He encourages others to get tested if they have the opportunity to, saying “It might give you a little peace of mind in an otherwise chaotic time.”
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Originally from Cuba, 50-year-old Oscar Mendez first moved to New York when he was a teenager over 30 years ago, and has lived in the city off and on ever since. He is the cofounder of New Majority Ready, a business strategy and marketing consulting company that specializes in helping companies realize the power of multicultural customers.
He currently lives in an apartment near Union Square in lower Manhattan, an area of the country that has been particularly hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Mendez has been closely following the latest updates about the pandemic, including the recent rollouts of antibody tests which show that one in five New York City residents are testing positive for coronavirus antibodies, indicating that they may have unknowingly been infected many weeks ago and have since recovered.
Mendez had experienced minor colds in early March, but showed no other symptoms. Still, living in such a high-risk area and knowing of several people who had gotten sick, he wondered if he had maybe contracted the virus unknowingly, and been asymptomatic. With his 76-year-old mother coming to stay with him from his brother’s home in New Jersey in mid-May, Mendez wanted to take every precaution possible for her safety.
On Monday, April 27, Mendez learned that CityMD Urgent Care would begin offering antibody tests the following day. He arrived to the location closest to him at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, and was greeted by a line down the street of fellow New Yorkers, each equally eager to get tested.
This is his experience, as told to Laura Casado.
He received an email from CityMD on April 27, saying the antibody tests would be available for walk-ins starting the next day.
“I researched all the CityMDs that were close to me and knew that they were all opening around 8 a.m. I went to the one near my apartment, on 14th Street between 5th and 6th Ave, and there was already a line of people waiting. I thought ‘Oh, I’m never going to get this done.'”
Mendez decided to do some errands as he waited for the line to go down a bit. After visiting a nearby Trader Joe’s and dropping his groceries off at home, he went back to the clinic.
“I went back at about 9:45 a.m., and there were still easily 20 people waiting on the street. I also didn’t feel comfortable with the line outside, because I’d been to that location before, and knew that that the waiting room could also accommodate another 30 people.
Mendez decided to try to find a different CityMD location that might be less crowded.
“I went to the CityMD on West 23rd street, and there I could walk in. I was a little intimidated because everyone was in the waiting room, about 15 people, and they weren’t really respecting social distancing. I asked the front desk attendant, and she told me that the wait time was about an hour. I registered in the electronic kiosk, and said that I’d go for a walk and come back.”
“I walked to another CityMD on the east end of 23rd street, and it was way worse than both of the other locations. People were basically flowing out of the clinic, and the wait time was about two hours. There was no organized way for people to stand, everything was very scattered.”
“I decided to go back to the CityMD on West 23rd. I called the front desk attendant and said that I didn’t feel comfortable staying inside the waiting area, where it felt like people were piled on top of each other. I said that I’d stand outside facing the glass window, and the attendant said that she would wave at me when it was my turn to come in.”
“I waited another 45 minutes to get in. Then, around 11:15 a.m., the attendant signaled to me that it was my turn, and I went in and straight back to the room to get the test done.”
After being ushered into the exam room, he was seen by four different attendants.
“In the exam room, a nurse came in, took my temperature and blood pressure, and said to wait for the doctor to come in and examine me further.
“Then, a second nurse came in and asked for more details about if I thought I had recent exposure to the coronavirus, if I wasn’t feeling well, or had had any symptoms within the last two to four weeks. I said that I had symptoms of a cold in early March, but nothing alarming. She asked why I wanted to get the antibody test, and I explained that my mom was coming to stay with me, and that I wanted to take every necessary precaution for her to be safe.”
“The nurse said the accuracy of the test is in the high 90s, but it’s still difficult to tell since testing is in the early stages. She did warn me that while I may have the antibodies, there’s no research that suggests how long the antibodies stay in your body, whether for three months, six months, or a year. I think they were very good in terms of answering my questions, and not giving me any exaggerated hope.”
“The second nurse left and the doctor came in. She checked my lungs, breathing, and chest congestion with a stethoscope. She told me to wait again for someone to come draw my blood for the test.”
“A third nurse came in, took my blood, said that I could expect my results in three to five days, and that was it.”
CityMD did not charge Mendez a fee for his test, or ask for a co-pay.
“I was in the exam room for about 30 minutes. I felt very safe, it was all very clean and everything was very sterile. Every time someone came into the room, they put on a new pair of gloves in front of me before touching me. They were all fully covered, with masks and suits.
“One nurse asked me to remove my own set of disposable gloves for the temperature check, and then kindly offered me a new pair before I left.”
“My only comment is that I don’t think they were prepared for the amount of people who showed up. They seemed overwhelmed by how irresponsible everyone was being by standing so close to each other. By now, hopefully, they have some better guardrails in place for people not to be on top of each other while they’re waiting.”
Mendez is expecting to find out his results in the next few days.
“I’m hopeful that I have the antibodies. Do I think I had the virus? I don’t know, honestly. Before the shutdown, I was out and about in New York, carefree, taking the subway, going to restaurants and to the theatre, I was living my life fully up until around March 14. So there is a likelihood that I may have had it, and not known it.”
“Regardless of my results, I’m still going to be cautious, and wear a mask and gloves when I go out. But if I do have the antibodies, I think I’ll have more peace of mind in terms of taking care of my mom.”
“I would recommend anyone who has the ability to get the test done to take it, it might give you a little peace of mind in an otherwise chaotic time. But I would also say don’t hang your happiness and your future on these results. Things will start progressing, and there is hope for everyone. We should all continue to remain diligent and cautious — because as cheesy as it may sound, we’re all in this together.”
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This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author(s).