Test ‘n’ Fly: We Review Coronavirus Testing At LaGuardia Airport

By Jonathan Spira on 9 December 2020
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Even though I have largely sequestered myself during the past nine months, consorting with almost no one outside the concierge at my residence who accepts my deliveries, I test regularly for the coronavirus because one just never knows.

While I haven’t flown since my final British Airways Boeing 747 flight in early March, I made a few overnight trips by car and also go hiking and biking regularly. 

Meanwhile, airports across the globe are opening coronavirus test centers that offer pre-flight testing as well as testing of pilots, flight attendants, and airport employees.  Some jurisdictions, including New York and Hawaii, require a negative Covid-19 test simply to visit. In other cases, having a negative test result eliminates the need for observing a quarantine period.

Since late October, New York’s brand-new LaGuardia Airport Central Terminal has been offering coronavirus tests and the offer is not limited to airport employees or passengers.  Literally anyone can come for a test at absolutely no charge.

Airports are a magnet for me almost as much as airplanes.  Ever since my parents would take me to the rooftop of the Pan Am Worldport whenever my father was heading to Austria, Germany, or Japan – or when we were traveling to Austria in the summer – I simply could not get enough time there.  Just like my favorite activity when flying, namely watching the clouds silently flow past, I can watch the comings and goings of aircraft for hours on end.

I headed to LaGuardia the Thursday before Thanksgiving, and followed the signs to the coronavirus testing center in the parking garage for the new Central Terminal, also known as Terminal B.  Essentially, upon entering, one continues to bear left and eventually ends up in the right place.  Free parking is provided and you don’t have to get a ticket to enter this area of the garage.  Most of the parking spots were vacant when I arrived, and I chose one relatively close to the testing area.

The testing center is a series of temporary structures where employees handling the registration process remain safely inside, and those requiring a test sit on a folding chair that is on what was once a parking slot.

Registration was a fairly simple affair and took about five minutes.  There was no wait whatsoever and an usher guided new arrivals to the next available registration window.

Once registered, I was handed a few papers at the next window and then told to go around the corner for the actual test.  There was no one at the testing window and the cheery woman who swabbed my nostril was swathed in what we now call PPE, or personal protective equipment, including a face shield, face mask, gloves, and a paper disposable gown.

The tests administered at LaGuardia are PCR or polymerase chain reaction tests, the gold standard for Covid-19 testing.  The Port Authority is working with the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation and the New York Tracing Corps to conduct the tests.While the tests are free, those who have health insurance will be asked to provide information about their policies.

After the test, I headed into the terminal, which was far emptier than I had expected at the start of the holiday travel period.

Getting my results (negative) took only 16 hours and I was alerted via an e-mail that was in my inbox the next morning.

The test center is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.  In addition to the free test, those getting tested receive complimentary parking as well.  What could be better?

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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