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De Blasio says NYC will ramp up testing amid COVID-19 surge and Omicron fears

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De Blasio says NYC is opening more testing sites amid Omicron fears 01:11:41

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday that New York City will be opening more testing sites amid the spike in COVID-19 cases and fears of the new Omicron variant

With long lines at testing sites reported throughout the city, de Blasio said the "world has changed" and the demand in testing is "unlike we have ever seen before, just like we have a surge in cases just like we have never seen before."

According to New York Governor Kathy Hochul, Sunday marked the third day in a row the state saw a record-high number of people test positive for COVID-19. There were 22,478 poisitive cases reported in the state, with 12,404 of those in New York City alone. 

De Blasio defended waiting weeks after Omicron was first detected to ramp up testing, saying that no knew how Omicron would spread. He called on the White House to invoke the Defense Production Act to provide more at-home tests and monoclonal antibody treatments, and called for fast-tracking Pfizer's antiviral pill. 

"As soon as we started to see what would really be the result, we have been ramping up testing and we will be ramping up a whole lot more," de Blasio said. "There is a lot ... of testing happening here in New York City, more than almost anyplace else. There will be a whole lot more behind it. But I think everyone has been surprised by the sheer intensity of Omicron, I mean, our health care leaders as well. We saw a slow beginning and now a sudden upturn, we're going to need it. We're going to find all the tools we need to address it." 

De Blasio said officials had not made a final decision yet on whether to hold the annual New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square, which had required revelers to have a vaccine.

De Blasio did not mention public school closures, but he indicated last week that closing schools would not be an option. On New York City's public radio station, WNYC, on Friday, de Blasio said "no, no, no" when asked if the city will order public schools to close. 

"What did I learn? Don't do that. That's what I learned," he said about public school closures last year.  

But the city's public advocate, Jumaane Williams, who tested positive for COVID-19 last week, over the weekend called for schools to go remote.

"NYC schools should go remote starting Mon (should've been last week). A no-brainer as we near recess," Williams tweeted.  

Dr. Dave Chokshi, the city health commissioner, said the city will be focusing on testing and contact tracing. 

Chokshi, de Blasio and the new mayor-elect, Eric Adams, all encouraged New Yorkers to get vaccinated and boosted. The city will be launching a new booster and vaccination campaign.

There were a rash of cancellations in New York City over the weekend, including Broadway shows and Radio City Music Hall's Rockettes' "Christmas Spectacular." "Saturday Night Live" went on without a studio audience and most of the cast.

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