Skip to Content
Staying Alive

An Ode to the COVID-19 Testing Van

RIP to my one true love.

12:21 PM EDT on May 15, 2023

A brightly colored NYC COVID-19 testing van parked on a city street.

(Hell Gate)

My first trip to one of the City-run COVID-19 testing vans was on July 15, 2021; my last was on March 12 of this year. In between, I made almost 30 trips to those mobile testing sites, which were sometimes a white van, sometimes a teal-colored one, but always beautiful, welcoming, necessary. 

During the worst of the pandemic and even post-vaccine, I would go get swabbed whenever I dared to see someone indoors, sans mask. Other times, I'd stop by because I was about to go on a date and was planning on breathing right into someone's face and swapping some bodily fluids (as safely as possible). Sometimes, I went because I was at the dog park and the van was there, and why not? 

Whatever the reason, the fact that I—and anyone else in the city—could walk up to a van and get some peace of mind and, if COVID-positive, get treatment, for the price of zero dollars was a mind-blowing revelation for someone accustomed to the indignities of a Bronze-level insurance plan. (Hey Healthfirst, you still owe me a fucking reimbursement for some COVID tests I bought.) 

For almost two years, my friends would receive regular texts from me along the lines of, "God I fucking love the COVID testing van," because it was true. I really did love those little vans, and the sometimes maternal, often bored public servants who staffed them. 

On April 31, the vans disappeared from our streets, more than a week before the federal government gave up and decided that the COVID-19 health emergency should officially end. 

Now that the pandemic has officially been declared over (haha), it's not just those gorgeous vans that are gone—free at-home kits will only be available at City sites like libraries until supplies run out, health insurance companies are no longer reimbursing the cost of rapid tests, and getting a test done at a private clinic may no longer be covered. Everything is going to get just a little bit harder, as it always seems to do. It's a particularly cruel ending, after we spent untold amounts of money creating a more robust public health system, born out of an extreme crisis, that pointed toward something better. 

But hey, at least we're still paying $200,000 each month to IBM for Excelsior Pass.  

Thanks for reading!

Register or log in to continue.

See all subscription options.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Hell Gate

The Testimony of Fatboi Sharif

At a recent show in NYC, the Rahway rapper welcomed an audience to his world.

May 30, 2023

Get Ready for a Hot No Lifeguard Summer

And other links to start your bummer summer.

May 30, 2023

Flying Squirrels? NYC’s Got ‘Em

And sometimes, they visit your fire escape.

May 29, 2023

Hell Gate Debates the 2023 Song of the Summer

Fans of dry sherry cocktails and Fleetwood Mac must tune in.

May 26, 2023
See all posts