Philly’s coronavirus response

South Philly’s Bok building launches weekly COVID tests for tenants and staff

People can use an online signup form to schedule their test.

The Bok building at 9th and Mifflin streets in South Philadelphia

The Bok building at 9th and Mifflin streets in South Philadelphia

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

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More than 300 Philadelphians are getting access to weekly coronavirus testing, thanks to a new program launching Monday at the Bok.

The historic South Philly building at 9th and Mifflin is home to more than 200 small businesses and a robust crew of staff. Bok’s owners partnered with a company called IVEE, which will offer testing for the next 6 to 8 weeks, depending on the level of interest.

IVEE is the same group that’ll provide restaurant workers with tests at a Rittenhouse bar starting in January. The operation, with offices in Philly, New York and New Jersey, is offering testing programs to schools and businesses with 75 or more people.

When its program begins next week, Bok’s tenants can sign up for the tests online. Building staffers, who work for development company Scout Ltd., will be required to get tested each week. Anyone who doesn’t have health insurance can rely on the CARES Act to cover their cost of testing. (For those who do have insurance, the service fee will be billed to the provider.)

“We are excited to offer this to our community to hopefully keep everyone within our family, friends and businesses safe during these times,” said Scout managing Lindsey Scannapieco.

Testing isn’t open to people who don’t work in the building, per program guidelines, “but we do hope this can help keep our neighborhood safer,” Scannapieco said.

There have been just two known cases of COVID-19 since March among all staff and tenants, according to Scannapieco. The building never completely shut down, as several companies inside were considered essential.

Hand sanitizer pumps are stationed on all floors, along with forehead temperature-check stations, and a mandatory mask requirement. Each studio has its own private A/C unit, so there’s no air circulated between spaces, per Scannapieco. Plus, everyone who works there basically stays in their private studio for the entire day.

In general, tenants Billy Penn talked with say they’ve felt safe at Bok. Tom Rudnitsky, a piano rebuilder at Philatuner, said working from home wasn’t really an option — he can’t very easily lug grand pianos to and from his house.

“I trust them,” Rudnitsky said of building management. “I think the most important thing is for companies to be completely transparent, and I’ve been very happy with their communication.”

For the testing program, interest among is critical: Bok might not be able to maintain the program if fewer than 75 people sign up each week, per IVEE rules.

And not everyone is chomping at the bit.

Even though he’s 72 years old, and his wife has health complications, Mt. Airy Custom Furniture owner Charles Todd doesn’t plan to utilize the service. He’s serious about COVID, he said — he only goes to the studio, the grocery store and the hardware store. With such a diligent quarantine, he doesn’t think there’s a point to screen himself.

“I’m not sure why I would be tested,” Todd said. “I guess their reasoning is they want to keep on top of the situation.”

Rudnitsky, the piano professional, said he thinks the free testing is a great idea. He got tested at Jefferson Health a few weeks ago, but he wishes he could’ve just done it at Bok instead: “It’s one less barrier.”


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