As COVID-19 cases surge in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city will open additional testing sites to fight the omicron variant.
“We want to maximize the number of places that New Yorkers can get tested,” the mayor said in his press briefing Monday. “We are now testing, in fact, more people than ever.”
The mayor said that in the last three weeks, the amount of tests given in the city has doubled. More than 130,000 tests are being taken in the five boroughs each day.
“We’re going to keep expanding test capacity constantly as we continue to fight omicron,” the mayor said in his press briefing on Monday.
De Blasio said 23 new testing sites will open in the city this week, including three mobile centers. New sites will be located in libraries, schools, and community centers. The 23 new sites mean the city will have a total of 112 city-run testing sites across the five boroughs.
The boost in test sites comes as New Yorkers face some challenges to get a test, including waiting in long lines, with the holidays approaching and the omicron variant spreading.
To help solve that issue, the mayor called on the federal government to provide more at-home testing kits to hand out at overwhelmed testing sites. De Blasio called home-testing a “key piece to the puzzle” in fighting this latest COVID-19 wave.
Officials said some of the city-run testing sites are also facing staffing shortages because workers are calling out sick.
“Unfortunately, some of our staff - again, they're already heroes - are getting omicron or COVID themselves. So we're going to be deploying mobile units and additional staff to where they're needed the most, working with our vendors, with the close supervision structure,” said Dr. Ted Long, executive director of the city's Test and Trace Corps.
Although the mayor says testing is crucial, he continued to put an emphasis on the importance of vaccinations and booster shots.
“We need to keep our focus on vaccination. We need to realize that we have an amazing tool to fight back against omicron,” de Blasio said.
The mayor and New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi also asked New Yorkers to take some precautions this holiday season.
“Plan your gathering around your most vulnerable family member,” Chokshi said. “That might mean hosting a virtual gathering or moving activities outdoors, or using masks, same-day tests and distancing. I do advise older adults and others at higher risks to skip oppositional activities, particularly in crowded settings, at least for the next few weeks.”
“This holiday may not be the one we envisioned, but we can still make it a safe one and healthy one,” said de Blasio.
A vaccine mandate for private and religious school employees took effect Monday. The mayor said educators need to be vaccinated to help keep children safe, especially children under five years old, who are still not eligible for the vaccine. To date, approximately 600,000 children have received a COVID-19 shot, according to the mayor, but he said that number needs to be much higher.