Swift COVID-19 Rapid Testing: A Painful Flop on Day Two?

Swift COVID-19 Rapid Testing: A Painful Flop on Day Two?

Swift COVID-19 Rapid Testing launched on Wednesday, January 20th, but by Thursday afternoon, the place was empty. You could, as the cliche goes, shoot a cannon through there without hitting anyone.

By David Stone

Roosevelt Island Daily News

Fumbling from the start: Swift COVID-19 Rapid Testing

Whatever the future brings for Swift Emergency Medical’s maiden voyage in the storefront marketing business, its present failing condition can be laid at the feet of predictably ham-handed messaging from RIOC.

Or, more correctly, a lack thereof.

What little residents knew about the upcoming opening emerged from research powered by gossip and guesses. The state did next to nothing in communications in advance, and even as the opening approached, information was scant and incomplete.

Swift COVID-19 Rapid Testing Site
A day after Wednesday’s opening, on Thursday mid-afternoon, a cannon would have a hard time finding targets inside the empty facility.

Island housing complexes willingly relay information to residents, but they got nothing from RIOC. There was, of course, no advertising because RIOC never does.

No flyers distributed by public safety. No posters on kiosks.

But an abundance of secrecy seeming to cloak backroom deals with partners Hudson and Swift.

What did we know…?

Thanks to a tip from a local news source, The Daily learned that Swift Emergency Medical was pairing with RIOC. As is their fashion, the state did not answer our request for confirmation, but we reported in early December with what we scraped up.

But RIOC’s weird mysterious behavior continued…

As we’ve noted in the past, people with nothing to hide don’t hide anything. Or, quoting activist Frank Farance, “Stupid people keep doing stupid things.”

Roosevelt Islanders had zero opportunity for warming up to Swift’s COVID-19 Rapid Testing plans nor did RIOC try educating residents in any way.

Failure was seasoned with the state agency hunkered down in the traditional bunker mode. But what were they hiding and why?

Until two days before the opening, the only official word came out during RIOC board meetings. That’s when acting president/CEO Shelton Haynes mumbled vague references when asked by passive board members.

But details and facts were hard to come by, and we reported what we knew, a week after RIOC again declined answering questions.

David Kramer and Hudson enter the scene… not a good sign

Entrance, Swift COVID-19 Rapid Testing site.
The sign reads, “Pre-registration Required,” but a helpful PSD officer encouraged passersby to go straight in. “You’ll be in and out in ten minutes,” he said.

As a real estate developer, David Kramer, Hudson’s president, has done impressive work. Buildings built in Southtown are generally considered the best on Roosevelt Island, and the passive residence at Cornell Tech is a technology breakthrough.

But every time his company dabbles outside its zone, its record is, putting it mildly, spotty.

Their Shops On Main effort refers mainly to empty storefronts and has since the project’s kick off, a decade ago. And consider the unloved RI sign in the Tram Plaza and drab holiday decorations, three years running.

Outside the box, Kramer’s a kind of King Midas in reverse. As for Swift Emergency Medical Care PC, operators of the testing site, we know next to nothing. Their logo adds “saving lives since 2016,” but there’s no track record anywhere and not even a corporate website.

We really don’t know what they’ve done or how RIOC hooked up with them.

We asked, but RIOC, of course, ignored the request.

Swift COVID-19 Rapid Testing site, entry and waiting area without demand.
Mid-afternoon on Day Two, the entry point for testing was idle. Two PSD officers hung out in the vestibule.

What RIOC did to get the word out about Swift COVID-19 Rapid Testing was reach out to off-island, normally credulous media sources, Patch and AMNY. Fabulous claims made by RIOC in their articles aren’t worth repeating, but they went unquestioned, which was probably the point.

Swift COVID-19 Rapid Testing opens broken…

RIOC’s had troubled relationships with local press since they learned that journalists ask questions and report on what they find, and things have gotten arguably worse since the ousting of Susan Rosenthal.

To be sure, relations with the former leader were at times combative, but she seldom hid from criticism, however unfair she might consider it. And she was friendly and open in public, regardless of the most recent story.

Successor and acting president/CEO Shelton Haynes shows a thin skin and lack of experience, aggressively refusing to respond to relevant questions. In essence, this leaves RIOC without a positive voice in reports.

And that’s complicated by the absence of professional communications staff since Terrence McCauley’s departure in June.

The net result is dialogue with the community, even on important topics, is broken and sometimes completely absent. The same goes for Hudson, and Swift’s the unfortunate recipient of their mistakes…

…because COVID-19 Rapid Testing is a good, if not the best thing

No question, a need for testing on Roosevelt Island exists because the community’s isolated. Although hundreds of tests are taken off-Island every week, for many local residents, the travel required is daunting.

And sadly, until this point, RIOC hasn’t lifted a finger to help, not even going as far as informing residents about available options. This alone raises suspicions about motives for the new site. If they didn’t give a hoot about assisting residents before, why now?

Because RIOC’s shied away from sharing information and neither Hudson nor Swift has engaged the community, important details are missing.

For the best example, the shortcomings of rapid antigen testing has not been conveyed.

Just this week, Fierce Biotech reported that Abbott Laboratory’s tests may miss as many as two-thirds of asymptomatic cases, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.

While antigen tests are reliable for finding positive cases, the rate of false negatives is high. That is, testing negative can’t be relied on as assurance that you’re COVID-19 free.

Their advantage is that you get results quickly, but experts suggest going in for repeated testing before trusting results. However, if you’re feeling symptoms, getting tested right away is imperative.

If the Swift COVID-19 Rapid Testing experiment turns out a flop, RIOC’s failure to inform and educate will be a primary factor.

The last word…

Funny in a dark way, the only remote promo for Swift COVID-19 Rapid Testing, anchored to a column on MTA property, directs people into the subway, not up Main Street. A generous view suggests the arrow might also include Riverwalk Commons as a target, but the site’s not there either.

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