NYRA partners with healthcare provider on free COVID-19 antibody tests

Posted: May 14, 2020

The New York Racing Association May 14 said it has partnered with Northwell Health to secure important COVID-19 antibody testing for NYRA employees and backstretch workers at Belmont Park.

“We would like to thank Northwell Health for their commitment to expanding the availability of antibody testing across New York and right here at Belmont Park,” NYRA Chief Executive Officer and President Dave O’Rourke said. “This broad testing program will provide additional insight allowing us to to more fully understand how COVID-19 has impacted our community.

“Going forward, this is a positive step in NYRA’s overall testing program as we work toward our goal of providing universal access to both diagnostic testing and antibody testing.”

The voluntary COVID-19 antibody testing, provided free by Northwell Health, will be available to all NYRA staff and backstretch workers at Belmont May 16. Northwell Health personnel will perform all testing, and results will be communicated within two days. Those who have recently experienced COVID-19 symptoms are asked to stay home and contact their health care provider.

“We have been able to respond quickly and effectively throughout this public health crisis because of the strong collaboration between NYRA and (the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association), as well as the tireless work of B.E.S.T, the Racetrack Chaplaincy and the Belmont Child Care Association,” O’Rourke said. “I would like to thank everyone involved in these efforts to keep our community safe.”

The test looks for the presence of antibodies, which are specific proteins made in response to infections. Antibodies can be found in the blood of people who are tested after infection and show that people have had an immune response to the infection.

Antibody test results are especially important for detecting previous infections with few or no symptoms. A positive test result reveals antibodies that likely resulted from a previous COVID-19 infection. Antibody testing does not reveal active infection.

Live racing on the NYRA circuit was suspended on March 19 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Belmont backstretch has remained operational for the 800 men and women, of which nearly 600 live on the backstretch, who tend to the essential daily care of the more than 1,500 Thoroughbreds currently stabled on the property.

Should NYRA be authorized to resume limited live racing operations, Belmont would be closed to spectators as well as all employees and staff except those required to be present under the rules of New York racing. With these restrictions in place, the resumption of live racing would add just 60 NYRA employees and racing officials to the population of 800 essential backstretch workers at Belmont.