Jan. 14, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards called for the establishment of a new office Thursday to centrally manage the city’s overall response to COVID-19.
Richards proposed creating the “NYC Office of COVID Recovery” tasked with streamlining and improving the city’s COVID-19-related services.
He said the office was needed to cut bureaucratic red tape that continues to hinder the city’s ability to combat the virus.
The new office, Richards said, would prevent “rookie errors” like a shortage of testing capacity and testing sites—such as in areas such as College Point and Forest Hills—from being repeated in the future. The recent shortfall of tests during the recent Omicron surge has forced residents to wait in line for hours to get tested, he said.
“We need to take control of our response to COVID-19, we need to brace ourselves and organize for our new normal going forward,” Richards said during a virtual media roundtable.
The office, under Richards’ proposal, would be led by a commissioner with each borough having liaison representatives who would work with local elected officials. The representatives would identify each borough’s COVID-19 needs and then report back to the commissioner with its findings.
Richards said this would foster better lines of communication between city agencies, elected officials and healthcare officials.
“If we are going to beat COVID-19 once and for all… we also need a government that would function at the highest level and that means talking to each other,” Richards said.
For instance, the liaisons would map out where testing sites are needed to better inform government decision-making on where to open such sites. The liaison representatives would also work with community-based organizations and faith-based organizations to get in touch with hard-to-reach residents regarding vaccinations and testing.
The office would also take over Test and Trace Corps operations, which is currently operated by NYC Health + Hospitals. He said this transfer is needed to alleviate unnecessary administrative burdens between the NYC Health + Hospitals system and the Health Department.
The change would also help expand the city’s testing apparatus and also strengthen its delivery by offering home testing kits in more languages — noting that around 200 languages are spoken in the World’s borough.
“You should be able to know how to use these test kits… and know where testing is actually happening,” Richards said.
Richards said he is working with Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers to introduce legislation to codify the NYC Office of COVID Recovery.
He has also pitched the idea to Mayor Eric Adams.
“The administration has received Borough President Richards’ proposal in concept and we look forward to reviewing it in greater detail,” senior advisor to the mayor Stefan Ringel said in a statement.