Omicron News: NY sets another record with 38,835 COVID cases, new testing sites open

Coronavirus update for NYC

ByDerick Waller and Eyewitness News via WABC logo
Thursday, December 23, 2021
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Dave Evans has more as the omicron-fueled spread of COVID-19 continues across the Tri-State region.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- As the dramatic, omicron-fueled spread of COVID-19 continues across the Tri-State region, New York City residents have several new testing options Thursday.

New York reported 38,835 new positive cases Thursday, setting a new state record for the sixth time in the past seven days. Still, hospitalizations -- while the highest since April -- are low compared to a year ago.

The 4,534 patients are roughly 2/3 of hospitalizations at this time in 2020.

The statewide positivity rate stands at 11.96%, with 63 additional deaths.

"We are experiencing the winter surge, and numbers are expected to rise," Gov. Kathy Hochul said. "You can also expect to reduce your chance of severe illness from COVID-19 if you get vaccinated and if you get the booster. The best gift you can give yourself and your loved ones this holiday season is protection from COVID-19. Encourage your friends and family members to do their part and mask up and exercise caution when in indoor public spaces. Let's all get through this and enjoy a safe and healthy holiday season."

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A mobile testing site at Travers Park in Jackson Heights, Queens, is one of three opened in the city by the federal government.

Things got off to a rocky start there, though, with a power outage and confusion about what time it actually opened.

Residents were able to book appointments as early as 7 a.m., but the site didn't actually open until 9 a.m.

"They said if we came back, they'd give us priority," Robert Anderson said. "But then I just heard maybe they won't start testing until 10, so I'm not really sure what's happening."

The result was chaos and confusion in a freezing cold line filled with families desperate to get tested before the holiday weekend.

WATCH: Eyewitness News Special | Holiday Alert: Omicron Surge

"The kids are exposed at school every single day," Rebecca Ortman said. "And I've kept them home the past couple of days because he already has 20, 30 cases at school."

The power outage made things worse, and with printers down for a time, people in line were told to go home and print the paperwork themselves.

"It's a cold day," Susan Mejia said. "The last thing we need is to be standing here in the cold. Adding insult to injury is to be told we can't do this until we bring something back. It's not our fault."

It is one of three CDC-run testing sites opening this week in Queens, with others in Flushing and Kew Gardens.

ALSO READ | Most visits at NYC-run hospitals suspended

Meanwhile, the city also just opened five sites distributing at home rapid tests in all five boroughs.

One in Corona, Queens, had very long lines all morning, with each site only stocked with 2,000 tests a day.

None of these extra locations are nearly enough to meet the extraordinary pre-Christmas demand.

"It's frustrating, but I'm glad they have the extra centers," Anderson said. "So it could be worse."

The Travers Park site is open until 5 p.m., but city-run hospital sites now have expanded their testing hours. They are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

They, too, have long lines.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the long lines won't last forever.

"Now we're in just a constant growth pattern with testing," he said. "We're going to build out as much as we possibly can, for this intensive few weeks, with Omicron. The big X factor for us will be the home test kits. If we get those in really big numbers really soon, that's going to relieve a huge amount of pressure on the test sites."

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