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Some N.Y. Offices Reopen With Onsite COVID-19 Tests

March 1, 2021

Many offices remain empty nearly a year since the COVID-19 outbreak erupted in the U.S. But property managers and office tenants in New York are eager for the return of employees who have been working from home during the pandemic. Some companies are hoping not to wait for the completion of the vaccine rollout, using onsite coronavirus tests as a safety measure to get employees back to the office.

“As a real estate owner and operator, we need to provide testing to help our tenants,” Scott Rechler of New York-based RXR Realty told Bloomberg. Since December, RXR has been offering onsite testing facilities. It has issued about 10,000 tests so far to companies in its buildings. Another big New York property owner, Related Cos., has started offering onsite testing at its properties. Related Cos. also has been offering diagnostic and antibody tests for workers at its Hudson Yards properties in conjunction with the Mount Sinai Health System.

Still, few workers have returned. As of Feb. 17, only about 14% of employees were in their New York–area offices, Bloomberg reports. Many companies have delayed reopening their offices until the fall or even later. “It seems unlikely to broadly move the needle,” analyst Danny Ismail of Green Street told Bloomberg about onsite COVID-19 tests. “At the end of the day, people need to feel safe, and that’ll come about via lower infection rates and higher vaccination rates.”

Office buildings nationwide have been beefing up safety protocols with upgraded air filtration systems, mask mandates, and more sanitizing stations. Some companies also are looking at how to help tenants get vaccinated once the vaccines become more widely available.