NYC adds testing; no decision on Times Square New Year’s Eve

Dec 22, 2021, 10:40 AM | Updated: Dec 23, 2021, 11:54 am
Spencer Savitz gets tested for COVID-19 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021...

Spencer Savitz gets tested for COVID-19 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Brittainy Newman)

(AP Photo/Brittainy Newman)

NEW YORK (AP) — 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 canceling 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 revelers 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% 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, hospitalizations 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% from the previous Monday.

That’s below more than 6,000 patients were hospitalized 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.

De Blasio said the city was opening seven additional testing sites Wednesday, increasing its total to 119, and will set up five distribution sites — one in each borough — on Thursday to hand out at-home rapid COVID-19 tests, which have been hard to come by at pharmacies.

The news of more city-run testing sites came as CityMD, the privately run chain of urgent care clinics, said it was temporarily closing 13 city locations “to preserve our ability to staff our sites.” CityMD has seen testing lines wrapping around city blocks and wait times of several hours.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who joined de Blasio at his news conference Wednesday and was honored with a key to the city, said he’s asking the federal government to send the city 100 mobile testing sites.

“Today they said they’re sending six. That ain’t close to enough,” Schumer said.

New measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 include requiring police officers to wear masks indoors and outdoors when interacting with the public. The NYPD has a vaccine mandate, but officers are still getting sick — with about twice as many out Tuesday as on an average day.

Even a Christmas staple was imperiled by the spike, as the New York City Ballet canceled its performance of “The Nutcracker” through Monday, citing “a number of” breakthrough infections in the production.

The city is also temporarily limiting visitation at city-run hospitals, with exceptions for pregnant people, children and hospice patients, and moving from in-person visits to televisits at city jails, where the COVID-19 positivity rate has soared in the last 10 days from 1% to 17%.

Jail Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi sent a letter Tuesday asking judges to consider alternatives to incarceration, writing that all indications suggest inmates face “an equal or greater level of risk” as at the start of the pandemic.

According to Schiraldi, just 45% of city inmates have gotten one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and only 38% are fully vaccinated. In comparison, at least 90% of city adults have received one dose and more than 82% of adults are considered fully vaccinated.

But north of New York City, hospitalizations are climbing in rural, central New York communities that are seeing more patients than this time last winter: Columbia County reports 26 patients, more than double the number in mid-December 2020.

Broome County, along the state’s border with Pennsylvania, reports 118 patients, a 30% increase compared to last December.


Follow Michael Sisak on Twitter at Associated Press writer Marina Villeneuve contributed reporting from Albany, New York.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Emergency Service, a damaged residential building is seen i...
Associated Press

Russian missiles kill at least 19 in Ukraine’s Odesa region

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian missile attacks on residential areas in a coastal town near the Ukrainian port city of Odesa early Friday killed at least 19 people, authorities reported, a day after Russian forces withdrew from a strategic Black Sea island. Video of the pre-dawn attack showed the charred remains of buildings in the […]
4 hours ago
Associated Press

UK government faces new boozy scandal as deputy whip quits

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s government is facing another boozy scandal after the deputy chief whip resigned from his post following a drunken incident this week, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson facing calls on Friday to expel him from the Conservative Party. Chris Pincher, whose role was to maintain discipline among Tory members of Parliament, submitted […]
4 hours ago
A Volvo XC40 electric vehicle is shown on, Dec. 13, 2021. Sweden's luxury car maker Volvo Cars will...
Associated Press

Volvo to build $1.25 billion electric car plant in Slovakia

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — Swedish luxury vehicle maker Volvo Cars plans to build a new European plant in eastern Slovakia, the country’s economy minister said Friday. Volvo’s third European plant will be located in Kosice, Slovakia’s second-largest city, Economy Minister Richard Sulik said. Volvo will receive about 20% of the 1.2 billion euros ($1.25 billion) […]
4 hours ago
FILE - A customer pays for vegetables at the Maravillas market in Madrid, on May 12, 2022. Inflatio...
Associated Press

Inflation in 19 countries using euro hits record 8.6%

LONDON (AP) — Inflation in the 19 countries that use the euro currency hit a record 8.6% in June, pushed higher by a strong increase in energy costs fueled partly by Russia’s war in Ukraine. Food prices also picked up pace. Annual inflation in the eurozone surged past the 8.1% recorded in May, according to […]
4 hours ago
FILE - The logo of  Chinese technology firm Alibaba is seen at its office in Beijing, Tuesday, Aug....
Associated Press

Ex-Alibaba employee says ex-boss should be charged with rape

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — A former employee of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has accused her then-manager of trying to rape her on a business trip last year as she pushes police to review charges in a case that has cast a rare spotlight on workplace harassment in the country. The employee, a woman identified only […]
4 hours ago
Tourists take a selfie in front of the Trevi Fountain, in Rome, Monday, June 20, 2022. Summer trave...
Associated Press

After two pandemic years, a summer travel bounce — and chaos

JERUSALEM (AP) — At a tourism conference in Phuket last month, Thailand’s prime minister looked out at attendees and posed a question with a predictable answer. “Are you ready?” Prayuth Chan-ocha asked, dramatically removing his mask and launching what’s hoped to be the country’s economic reset after more than two years of coronavirus-driven restrictions. When […]
4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
NYC adds testing; no decision on Times Square New Year’s Eve