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Long line outside CityMD
Photograph: Shutterstock/Joe TabaccaLong lines have popped up outside urgent cares all over NYC

New Yorkers are paying people to wait in COVID testing lines

In today's dystopian news, people are hiring TaskRabbit gig workers to withstand hours-long COVID lines

By Christina Izzo
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Shiny new iPhones? Sure. Hot Broadway tickets? Why not? The latest Instagrammable dessert hybrid? Duh. We've waited in line for plenty of frivolous things in our day, but this year had us queuing up for far more serious stuff—the right to vote, of course, and for COVID-19 testing, with lengthy lines circling nearly every urgent care in our fair city. But leave it to crafty New Yorkers to hack the system: Now folks are hiring TaskRabbit workers to brave those wraparound testing lines for them. 

A viral TikTok video from user @thetipguyNYC has been making the rounds this weekend, detailing exactly how the hack works: Open the TaskRabbit app—an online marketplace pairing freelance labor (cleaners, handymen, etc) with local demandsearch 'wait in line' and your nearest CityMD location, and select a nearby tasker. Leave instructions in the notes field to have the worker call once they're at the front of the line, and then the patient switches spots with them. 

The now-deleted video has been causing a bit of an uproar on social platforms like Twitter, with many questioning the ethics of paying someone less than $20 to expose themselves to a contagious virus in your stead. But the wait-in-line feature on TaskRabbit is not new, and the idea of taking advantage of it during this COVID era apparently isn't either. 

"I didn't see the TikTok, but I've been using TaskRabbit for a while for a variety of things—it made sense for me to use it for this, too," says Sara Kaplan of Murray Hill, who hired "Arbed C." to be a line holder outside of a midtown CityMD this past Friday. "She had done wait-in-line gigs before, and coincidentally had another appointment after mine to wait for someone at a different CityMD location in Brooklyn." 

TaskRabbit workers hired for COVID testing lines
Photograph: Courtesy of Sara Kaplan

When asked about the social-media naysayers critiquing the fad, Kaplan says, "I cannot fathom how people can disagree—it's giving people jobs who may have lost theirs during this pandemic, so if they want to do it and get paid for it, that's their decision." Kaplan also cites the lack of organization and support from local and federal government as a reason for such a gig to exist in the first place. "It's absurd that these lines are happening to begin with, and that NYC hasn't come up with a better solution," she says. "If we're in such a bad spot that we have to wait three-plus hours for a COVID test, then people should absolutely be taking the opportunity to get paid for it. I would without a doubt do this again. It's a win-win."

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