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Jun 11, 2020 | Nicolás Ríos and Rommel H. Ojeda

Healthcare for Immigrants During the Pandemic

It’s been two years since the coronavirus upended the lives of New Yorkers. During this period a lot has happened: more information regarding the effects of the virus has been released to the public, and more resources have been implemented to help individuals cope with the aftermath. Here is some necessary information to help you get access to healthcare for immigrants and take care of your health during these volatile times. 

Masking and Isolation Guidelines
Masks are no longer required in most circumstances; however, mask use is still encouraged. Masks are still required in nursing homes and hospitals.

If you test positive for COVID-19, isolate for at least five days from when your symptoms began (or if you had no symptoms, your test date). Keep isolating if you have had a fever in the last 24 hours or your symptoms are not improving after five days.

If you are unsure whether you should end isolation or continue, you can consult your doctor. The CDC also has COVID-19 Isolation and Exposure Calculator.

COVID-19 Vaccines

Ever since the vaccination process started last year in New York, more and more New Yorkers have become eligible to receive it. We have made a detailed guide on how to check if you are eligible, how to get it, where to get it and what to expect from it. Read: Guide to the Covid-19 Vaccine for immigrants in New York

Tests for Coronavirus: 

You might be wondering, why should I consider a test when I can get the vaccine? And you are absolutely right. But even though the vaccine is available for most New Yorkers there are cases that a covid-19 test will be necessary. For example, if you are feeling ill or if you have been exposed to someone who has covid. The vaccine prevents you from getting sick, but scientists are still figuring out how well the vaccine does at preventing the spread to others. Sometimes vaccine availability might run out, so a test could be the best way to prove that you are covid free to attend an event, or enter a location. 

There are two tests for Covid-19: 1) Rapid Antigen/PCR tests and 2) the Serum Antibody IgG(blood test). The rapid test is used to diagnose if you are actively infected with the COVID-19 virus— the results will be given the same day, most of the time within the same hour. The Serum Antibody IgG(blood test) detects if you had previous exposure to the virus. This test takes a few days because the bloodwork needs to be analyzed in a lab. Depending on your need and urgency, the doctor might recommend one or the other. 

Remember, most insurance plans pay for the test without additional fees. If you don’t have insurance, you can get tests for free at some locations in New York City and New York State. Here is the list with the places where New York City is giving free tests. If you are in the rest of New York State, you will need to check your county information.

You can also find free rapid tests at your local library, local representative’s office, and other public locations. Search for “at-home test pickup sites” by borough here.

If you have symptoms similar to those of the Coronavirus (check here the symptoms), if you are 50 years or older or if you have a pre-existing illness, call (844) 692-4692 or 311 for help. Nobody needs an appointment to take the test, or get the vaccine (16+).

In this link you can find places near you that administer the test for coronavirus.

Treatment is available for people 12 and older who test positive for COVID-19. Most people are prescribed a five-day regimen of once-daily pills (Paxlovid). Some individuals might also be eligible for a one-time intravenous (IV) injection, known as monoclonal antibodies. 

Treatment must be prescribed by a doctor. If you test positive for COVID-19, reach out to your primary care provider about treatment options. If you do not have a primary care provider, you can call 212-COVID19 (212-268-4319).

You can find locations that administer or prescribe treatment here.

Hospital admission

Individuals with severe symptoms may require hospitalization. If you have mild symptoms and tested positive, you will be sent home and you will be instructed to quarantine for at least 5 days or until your symptoms improve and you are fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of medications such as Tylenol and ibuprofen. Note: if you don’t feel well and/or are having trouble breathing call 911. 

Mental health

The months of the pandemic have complicated the lives of immigrant communities, either due to economic difficulties or emotional anguish. For this reason, Documented compiled a list of organizations that offer mental health services in our community. You can see our list here: Mental HealthResources  for Immigrants in New York

The state and city also offer free mental health services, you can see what they offer at the following links:

  • NYC Well: New York City offers 24-hour support in case you are depressed or want to speak to someone.
  • NYS Office of Mental Health Hotlines: New York State has a crisis line in case you need to speak to someone: 1-800-273-8255
  • Meditation: Headspace App released various sets of meditation. Link

Health insurance

New York City is offering enrollment for health insurance to uninsured New Yorkers. Complete the form at this link or call 311 for free registration assistance. They have options so that it does not affect public charge.

Domestic Violence

Violence Prevention Program (VIP): Liaison and bilingual 24-hour service line 1800-664-5880

Free health Services

Due to the lack of resources or documentation, access to health care for immigrants and undocumented people has historically been difficult. For this reason, Documented investigated and we published free or low-cost health-services options for immigrants in New York City. Read our full list here: Health Care Access for Immigrants in New York

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