New Yorkers will soon be able to get tested for COVID-19 at subway stations or in the sanctity of their own homes free of charge, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Wednesday, as state and city officials scrambled to ramp up testing amid an explosion of new infections ahead of the holiday weekend.
In a bid to beef up availability, Hochul said her administration has purchased 37 million at-home coronavirus tests, which New Yorkers will be able to order to their homes for free via a web portal that the state will launch in the coming days.
About 5 million at-home tests will become available for delivery by New Year’s Eve, Hochul said. The remainder will be distributed early next month.
The at-home tests touted by Hochul come on top of whatever allocation New York will receive from a pot of 500 million at-home tests that President Biden’s administration will ship out for free across the country starting next month.
“That is critically important,” Hochul said during a press briefing in Buffalo. “We don’t want people having to stand in long lines.”
The NYC subway testing program will roll out Monday. Pop-up testing sites will launch at five additional subway stations later next week. Appointments are not required.
Over at City Hall, Mayor de Blasio announced he’s opening seven new testing sites in the five boroughs, adding to the 112 his administration was already operating.
But that’s still not enough, said U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who sent a letter to Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell on Wednesday asking her agency to deploy 100 mobile testing units to the city.
“Today, they said they’re sending six,” Schumer said of the feds. “That ain’t close to enough given the magnitude of the crisis and what we need.”
A FEMA spokeswoman did not return a request for comment, though Hochul said Biden told her in a phone call Tuesday that the federal government is gearing up to launch mass testing sites in the city.
The all-hands-on-deck testing push comes amid mounting frustration over New Yorkers having to spend upward of five hours on long lines in the late-December cold in order to get a test.
Demand for testing has soared as the extremely contagious omicron variant of COVID-19 is causing an unnerving resurgence in infections, including among fully vaccinated individuals.
Statewide, 28,924 New Yorkers tested positive for COVID-19 Tuesday, breaking a previous single-day infection record set just two days ago, according to Health Department data.
“This virus is going vertical. It’s going straight up,” Hochul said. “Another day we’re breaking a record. Not a record that we’re happy about.”
The dramatic infection spike has not resulted in a major uptick in hospitalizations or deaths, however — a distinction that public health experts credit to New York’s high vaccination rate, with 90.9% of all adult city residents having gotten at least one shot, according to Health Department data.
Producing or using a fake coronavirus vaccination card also became a state crime thanks to a bill signed into law by Hochul late Wednesday.
The bill, which was inked along with a package of other pandemic response-related measures, makes the falsification of a coronavirus vaccination card a class A misdemeanor. It also establishes a new felony computer-tampering charge for intentional alteration of material pertaining to COVID-19 vaccine records.
“We need to make sure we learn the lessons of the pandemic so we don’t make the same mistakes twice,” Hochul said in a statement after signing the bills. “These new laws will help us improve our response to the pandemic now, crack down on fraudulent use of vaccination records, and help us better understand the areas of improvement we need to make to our health care system so we can be even more prepared down the road.”