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Officials Take Action As Omicron Cases Surge Across New York City, Especially In The Bronx

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The city is battling the worst COVID-19 wave in a year. The Bronx currently has the highest positivity rate and in some neighborhoods that number is near 50%.

As CBS2's Natalie Duddridge reported Wednesday, elected leaders are concerned.

"While it's alarming right now, we can get this under control," Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson said.

FIND TESTING SITES: Click here for New York City's testing site locator, including mobile sites and at-home appointments

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The borough was devastated by COVID deaths in 2020, and the outlook is now looking dim.

The Bronx has a 27.9% positivity rate overall. The Fordham, Kingsbridge and University Heights neighborhoods are the highest at 47.3%.

"I think the fact more people are getting tested is driving up the numbers. The exposure, too. Many people still not wearing face masks," said Gibson. "We also know many people are not vaccinated."

Rapid tests and PPE will be available to residents Wednesday at a community center in the Highbridge section.


In addition, a local council member has added rapid testing along busy Southern Boulevard, which will be open this week from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. through Sunday.

On Wednesday, people were so desperate for tests, they waited over an hour in the rain, Duddridge reported.

Jasmine Robles and her son, also of Foxhurst, both recently tested positive. They tested again Wednesday to see if they are negative and can return to activities.

"The chills and aches went away. The smell, it's still not there. The taste is in an out," Robles said.

"Wake up and go to the testing sites early. Get there ASAP," said Ronnie Reed of Foxhurst.

Reed tested positive for COVID two weeks ago. When CBS2 caught up to him, he was testing to get back to work.

"My job requires me to be not only vaccinated but also to have a negative test," Reed said.

But Reed said it has been challenging to find a test, let alone wait for one.

"There's hundreds of people in line, waiting for hours," South Bronx City Councilman Rafael Salamanca said.

That's why Salamanca set up a tent outside his office on Southern Boulevard.

"I'm trying to make this a permanent site until the COVID numbers decrease. Unfortunately, the Bronx has always led in things that are not good, when it comes to health disparities," Salamanca said.

Then there is the ongoing debate about schools.

With the surge, community members and advocates are pushing for more testing in schools. Mayor Eric Adams said Wednesday morning his "Plan A" is for classes to remain in person.

"We put 1,000,000.5 tests in our schools so we can identify the child that has COVID and ensure that the rest of the classroom is not infected at the same time," Adams said.

Adams said remote learning is "Plan B."

"The safest place for a child is in school," Adams said. "Little Johnny is not in school? He's not in his room. He's in the streets. He doesn't have his mask on. And then you go to those communities where they don't have high-speed, broadband WiFi, where they can't go online and get the education they need."


Parents told Duddridge they're still confused over whether they should get a PCR or rapid. An infectious disease doctor addressed that question on CBS Mornings.

"With the PCR test, that's really a test to determine do you have COVID. Are your symptoms from COVID. You had a high exposure, do you now have COVID. The antigen tests are really to determine are you infectious or contagious to other people. So you're trying to answer slightly different questions with each of those tests," Dr. Celine R. Gounder said.

Those are important questions to answer to get people back to work. Adams has said New York City must stay open in order for millions of people to be able to work and pay their rent.

Several people who came back with a positive result on Wednesday told Duddridge they wish they could have done at-home tests instead.

President Joe Biden has promised to mail out 500 million rapid at-home test kits to those who request them, but there's still no word on when that will happen.

Gov. Kathy Hochul is scheduled to deliver her State of the State address Wednesday, and there's no doubt she will be mentioning more COVID plans then, too.

CBS2's John Dias contributed to this report.

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