Sun | Dec 10, 2023

NYC ramps up COVID testing; no decision on Times Square celebrations

Published:Wednesday | December 22, 2021 | 9:03 PM
People wait on line to get tested for COVID-19 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York.

With COVID-19 cases spiking, New York City officials said Wednesday they're opening more testing sites and restricting visiting at city-run hospitals and jails — but having crowds in Times Square for New Year's Eve is still a go, for now.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said no decision had been made on banning people from the annual ball drop celebration, even as Fox said it was cancelling its live broadcast because of concerns about the omicron variant.

“The preference is to keep it on, it's an important event for the city,” de Blasio told MSNBC, adding that revellers would have to show vaccination proof and that officials were weighing other precautions.

Some 17,200 people tested positive in the city Tuesday setting another new one-day record since testing became widely available.

New York City has seen the average number of people testing positive each day spike more than 220 per cent in a week.

At least 89,000 people in the city tested positive in the seven day period that ended Tuesday.

Cases are also rising on Long Island, in the mid-Hudson Valley and in central New York counties such as Tompkins County, where Cornell University has faced an outbreak.

Still, because of widespread vaccination, hospitalisations and deaths from the virus are far fewer than at the pandemic's height, or even during a holiday-period surge last winter.

New York hospitals are up to 4,452 patients as of Tuesday — up 18 per cent from the previous Monday.

That's below more than 6,000 patients were hospitalised in mid-December 2020.

Dr. Mitchell Katz, CEO of the city's hospital system, said the 11 city-run hospitals had a total of 54 COVID-19 patients in intensive care as of Wednesday — up from 20 a few weeks ago, but a mere fraction of the 970 ICU patients at the peak in March 2020.

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