- Wealthy New Yorkers are paying people to stand in COVID-19 testing lines for them.
- Demand for tests has surged in the run-up to Thanksgiving, leading to hours-long waits at some testing centers in the city.
- People who offer to line-sit on freelance marketplace TaskRabbit told the New York Post they've been charging up to $80 an hour. When they approach the front of the line, they ring the person paying them, who takes their place.
- One user told the Post they were getting multiple inquiries every day. Most of the people willing to pay are "fairly young, maybe in their 20s" who work from home and "have the money to spend," they said.
- TaskRabbit told Business Insider: "We encourage Taskers to not accept jobs for which they aren't comfortable for any reason."
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Some rich New Yorkers aren't keen on waiting in line for a COVID-19 test — so they're paying other people to do it on their behalf.
Demand for tests has spiked as the holidays approach and people prepare to meet up with their families, some ignoring Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advice to stay at home. This has led to hours-long waits at some testing centres.
On freelance marketplace TaskRabbit, users are advertising line-sitting services, and some are getting paid hundreds of dollars, the New York Post reported.
When they reach the front of the line, they ring the person paying them, who then takes their place.
One TaskRabbit user, Lucy, told the Post she charged one customer $80 an hour. When she showed up to wait, she was disappointed because the line looked short, she said. But in the end she waited for three hours, pocketing $240.
"I was socially distanced, I had my mask on, everyone else was socially distanced and, you know, I just like spent the time in line talking to my grandma and stuff," Lucy said.
"Every day I'm getting inquiries"
One out-of-work writer waiting in a CityMD line in Soho told the Post they were getting asked to wait in lines every day.
"I've already done this about five times already," she said.
"One day I got hired to do two lines, so that's how busy it is. Every day I'm getting inquiries.
"A lot of people want to visit family or take trips for Thanksgiving and they need some kind of documentation stating they're COVID-free. One of my clients said they're going on a trip and she needs documentation before she goes," said the writer, who asked to remain anonymous.
She said that most of the people willing to pay are "fairly young, maybe in their 20s" who work from home and "have the money to spend."
New York Times journalist Taylor Lorenz posted this video on Twitter, showing a long line of people waiting for a COVID-19 test.
—Taylor Lorenz (@TaylorLorenz) November 22, 2020
Some social media users expressed concern about people waiting in line on behalf of others, arguing this could worsen the spread of the virus.
—Lady Prometheus (@LadyBlogga) November 22, 2020
"This year, there are some Taskers choosing to wait in line for clients seeking COVID-19 tests," TaskRabbit said in a statement sent to Business Insider.
"Because details of all tasks are shared by clients in advance, Taskers know the types of lines in which they will be waiting, and the decision about whether to accept the task lies with the Tasker.
"We encourage Taskers to not accept jobs for which they aren't comfortable for any reason."
The company added: "As always, the safety and well-being of all users on the platform is our biggest priority, and we ask all Taskers and clients to adhere to safety best practices and TaskRabbit's guidelines for using our platform."
As more people are getting tested in the runup to Thanksgiving, Business Insider took photos showing some of the long lines in cities across the US, such as Los Angeles and New York.
A US national survey by Ohio State University on November 17 showed 40% of respondents were planning to gather in person with 10 or more people during the holiday season. Additionally, a third of respondents said they would not ask guests to wear masks to their events.
Many states have set restrictions on Thanksgiving gatherings. For example, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced November 11 that gatherings larger than 10 people at private residences are banned.