Bill Morris in COVID-19 on February 25, 2021
When Fabiola Arellano heard the news, she pounced. As president of the board at the 43-unit Beach House Condominium in Rockaway Beach, Queens, Arellano was in the final stages of overseeing a long campaign of repairs that dated all the way back to 2012, when the condominium opened just months before Hurricane Sandy hit. Now, nearly a decade later and nearly a year into the coronavirus pandemic, many unit-owners, fearful of getting infected, were refusing to allow workers into their apartments to complete repairs to faulty air conditioners and window gaskets. Arellano was in a corner.
“We started getting pushback from unit-owners,” says Arellano, 53, an Army veteran who moved into the Beach House when it first opened and has served on the condo board for the past six years. “People didn’t want workers coming into their apartments.”
So when the Beach House’s insurance broker, Ed Mackoul, president of Mackoul Risk Solutions, told Arellano about a free, onsite COVID-19 testing program for co-ops and condos, she was in. “I got all excited,” Arellano says. “I immediately got in touch with the testing program’s director, Regina Fuks, saying I wanted to put people’s minds at ease. She explained the process, and we came up with a tentative date. Then we had our property manager, Jackie Monzon of Crystal Real Estate Management, send out an email letting people know there would be free COVID-19 testing in the recreation room, and there was a sign-up sheet in the lobby.”
Fuks had been running corporate health and wellness programs for 20 years when the pandemic hit. No longer able to visit the offices of clients to provide such services as cancer screenings, she shifted to offering COVID-19 testing in residential buildings, private homes, catering halls and before such social functions as bridal parties. She partnered with Accureference Medical Lab in Linden, N.J., which is providing the tests, swabs, personal protective equipment as well as a courier service to pick up the completed tests, then deliver the results.
Mackoul, a personal friend, sent an email blast about the new testing program to his co-op and condo clients. “That day,” Fuks says, “I must have gotten 30 voice messages on my phone.”
On the anointed day at the Beach House, Feb. 9, Fuks and an assistant completed about 15 tests in an hour – on both unit-owners and workers. They offered the more reliable Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) swab test for free through funding from the CARES Act for uninsured residents; the more rapid antigen test cost $50. One unit-owner tested positive. Confidentiality laws prevented the board from naming the person, but workers show their test results and ask to see unit-owners’ test results before entering apartments.
“I’m very pleased,” Arellano says. “Now nobody can say that COVID-19 is rampantly spreading. It’s not. Ideally, every week I would get the workers and unit-owners tested. I would love that in a perfect world.” She’s working to arrange another round of testing in March.
For now, one thing has changed for the better at the Beach House. “After I provided the testing, the people who gave me the most grief have stopped complaining,” Arellano says with a delighted laugh. “Nobody’s complaining!”
Co-op and condo boards that want to set up a free onsite testing program in their buildings can get more information by clicking here.
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