The City of Newark has launched programs to offer mass COVID-19 testing to public housing residents and the city’s homeless population.

Testing began earlier last week at two senior housing locations under the leadership of Newark Housing Authority Executive Director Victor Cirilo. It continued over the weekend at Stephen Crane Elderly Center for residents of the complex buildings.

Mayor Baraka said the City and NHA “are getting ready to test aggressively at our senior homes and the long-term healthcare facilities first, because seniors are the most vulnerable. We are going into the areas that are hit the hardest.”

Cirillo said there are about 5,200 residents at 24 senior high rise buildings throughout the City and “we hope to test each and every one of the buildings in the coming weeks.”

NHA will begin to test all family housing complexes. Testing is covered by Medicare, Medicaid or other insurance. The tests are nasal swabs and will be processed by Sunrise Diagnostic Laboratories of South Plainfield and HealthEast Medical Alliance in Englewood, with results returned in 24 to 48 hours.

“We are the 10th largest housing authority in the country and largest in the state,” Cirilo said. “With over 30,000 Newark residents at senior and family low income complexes, we have a responsibility to be proactive and safeguard a large portion of our City’s population from this dangerous pandemic.”

An initiative was designed to get residents without addresses in safe quarters to help slow the person-to-person COVID-19 spread among those living outdoors and the people with whom they come in contact. Testing began this week at an airport hotel with which Newark partnered last month as part of Mayor Ras Baraka’s $1 million investment in rapid, short-term housing for Newark’s most vulnerable residents.

At the airport hotel all 194 residents were offered tests. Later in this week, there will be testing at the largest Newark homeless shelter and eventually residents at all 21 shelters will be offered tests. Once the results are back, anyone who has tested positive will be quarantined for 14 days under medical supervision, unless they need to be hospitalized, and then returned to their original shelters.

Meanwhile, the City began testing other residents by appointment only at the Branch Brook Park Skating Rink this week. Testing will be done Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursday, Fridays, and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The site will have both a drive-up and walk-up options.