State plans to expand testing and vaccination efforts, governor says


The state plans to expand COVID-19 testing and vaccination efforts in the fight against the rapidly spreading omicron and delta variants, Governor Kathy Hochul said on Monday, as the number of positivities continued to rise.

Late Monday evening, federal health officials said the omicron variant now accounted for 73% of new COVID-19 infections in the United States, eclipsing the Delta.

On Long Island, the seven-day average of new positive COVID-19 cases – 9.84% – was the highest in the state for the second day in a row, according to state data. And Hochul said New York state “broke another record” with 23,391 new cases on Sunday.

“The test is a high, high [priority] because what we predict is that more and more people will test positive, ”Hochul said during a visit to a vaccination site in northern Warsaw state on Monday morning. “We want them, even if they test at home, just stay with you, don’t go out. Don’t go to work. Don’t go see your family. This is how we can start to isolate the spread. “

New York is expected to receive 5 million COVID-19 home test kits, with another 5 million on the way in January, state operations director Kathryn Garcia said at the Hochul press conference after midday in Manhattan. Garcia said New York is calling on the federal government to use the Defense Production Act to speed up production of over-the-counter tests.

The state will open seven new testing sites the week of Dec. 27, including one in Nassau County, according to Jackie Bray, acting commissioner of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. The exact location was not immediately available.

State-run mass vaccination sites will also start offering testing, she said. The two state-run Long Island mass vaccination sites are located at Stony Brook in Suffolk County and SUNY Old Westbury in Nassau.

Hochul said New Yorkers will soon be able to get the home test kits through an online portal. Officials said a launch date and details will be available at the end of the week, but people will mop themselves up with a home PCR test, mail the sample in a prepaid envelope, and receive the results within 48 hours. time.

Kits will be distributed to schools and health facilities, as well as local county governments, where they will reach the public in places such as libraries. The governor said it was essential for testing to be in the hands of parents to ensure their children could return to school after the holidays.

“My number one job is to make sure there is enough supply [of at-home tests]”Hochul said.” So when people aren’t feeling well, they don’t have to scour their community, try to get a testing kit, or find a facility that can test them. “

Suffolk County Health Commissioner Dr Gregson Pigott said his agency received 60,249 boxes of iHealth rapid test kits on Monday, with two tests per box.

“The state has requested that we prioritize K-12 schools. We are currently contacting schools for distribution to students and staff,” he said in a statement.

The White House made no immediate comment on calls by Hochul and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio to use the Defense Production Act. On December 2, President Joe Biden had already pledged to use it as an emergency measure.

“This winter, we’re going to make free home testing more accessible to Americans than ever before,” Biden said in his winter plan at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. “To better detect and control the delta variant, I made the tests more available, affordable and convenient. I used the Defense Production Act to increase the production of rapid tests, including home tests.”

Getting a full vaccine and getting a booster is always the best defense against COVID-19, said Dr Aaron Glatt, chairman of the department of medicine and chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital in Oceanside. He said fully vaccinated and boosted people who contract COVID-19 are even less likely to fall seriously ill or be hospitalized.

“Anyone who hits that six-month mark should be given a booster,” he said. “There are basically no exceptions to this rule, and it is from age 16.”

Pigott said demand for boosters, as well as first and second doses of the vaccine, had “increased significantly” over the past two months.

“We have added dozens of clinics to meet the demand,” he said in a statement. “We currently dispense an average of 200 to 300 doses at our clinics in the H. Lee Dennison building in Hauppauge and an additional 100 doses, on average, at each of our pop-up clinics in Suffolk County. “

As of December 20, more than 3.9 million booster / additional doses of COVID-19 had been administered statewide, with more than 552,000 administered in the past seven days, according to the Department of Health. ‘State.

On Long Island, 79,907 booster / additional doses were administered in the past seven days, for a total of 580,353. Overall, 54,531 booster / additional doses were administered to SUNY Stony Brook and SUNY Old Westbury.

Of the state’s 23,391 new positives on Sunday, 1,947 were in Nassau and 1,696 in Suffolk.

While the state total is the highest recorded number of positive cases since the start of the pandemic, it probably does not represent the highest number, as tests were not readily available during the first wave in the United States. early 2020.

“It’s not March 2020. It’s not even December 2020,” Hochul said. “We didn’t have any shots or boosters and the knowledge we have now… we just have to face this moment with action and not fear.”

Meanwhile, Hochul said state health commissioner Dr Mary T. Bassett tested positive for COVID-19 through a rapid test, but was doing well. Bassett is fully vaccinated and has received her booster, Hochul said. She is waiting for the results of a PCR test to confirm the COVID-19 rapid test.

In addition, Hochul pledged $ 65 million to help county governments enforce mask protocols. She said localities can decide how to use the money, but some options could be buying masks and signs for businesses and setting up call centers for people to file complaints.

With Cecilia Dowd, Michael Gormley, AP

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What there is to know

New York State Expects $ 5 Million at Home COVID-19 test kits by the end of the year and an additional 5 million in January.

New Yorkers will be able to order a home PCR testing through a state-run portal.

For the second day in a row, Long Island had the highest seven-day average of new positive COVID-19 tests in the state.

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