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New Testing Sites, Vaccine Mandates Highlight New York City's Efforts To Fight Spread Of Omicron Variant

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- As we prepare to enter a new year, New York City is starting the last week of 2021 with major efforts to fight off COVID-19 with new testing sites and vaccine mandates.

There was some good news on Monday as New York state's overall number of infections dropped for the second straight day. There were more than 26,000 cases on Sunday, compared to more than 36,000 on Christmas Day.

Unfortunately, in New York City daily cases are still growing. There were more than 17,000 on Sunday, compared to more than 14,000 on Saturday, CBS2's Ali Bauman reported.

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

As CBS2's John Dias reported Monday, from vaccines and boosters to free PCR tests, a swipe of your subway card will get you access to more than a ride -- the tools you need to stay safe during the pandemic.

"This is a blessing for New York," resident Hector Real said.

"Just to be on the safe side, let me come and get tested," Stacey Bernard added.

Starting Monday, the state combined testing sites with pop-up vaccine clinics at subway stations in Times Square and Grand Central Terminal.

Olga Oberman rushed right down after she had no luck getting tested in her neighborhood on Christmas Eve.

"I had a chair and everything and after two hours, I went home," Oberman said.

She celebrated the holiday alone after she was exposed to COVID. Now she wants to make sure she's in the clear.

AVOID THE LINES: Click here for NYC Health+Hospitals testing wait times

"On the 17th, I celebrated my 80th birthday, and all of those people who were there, they were all sick, two days later," she said.

The new testing sites are part of the effort to combat a winter surge in COVID cases. The initiative will expand to five more subway stations in a few days.


President Joe Biden was on a call with governors on Monday, vowing to send in more help to deal with the current situation, including assistance in the Big Apple.

"Seeing how tough it was for some folks to get a test this weekend shows that we have more work to do, and we're doing it," Biden said. "We stood up six new sites in New York City in five days and there are more coming."

Some doctors say there needs to be more opportunities like this nationwide.

"This is not where we should be two years into the pandemic. I really think we have not done enough to set up a testing infrastructure our country needs. And I'm disappointed by that," said Dr. Ashish Jha of the Brown University School of Health.

Watch: Ali Bauman's 11 p.m. Report On New CDC COVID Quarantine Guidance

Two new vaccine mandates went into effect Monday in New York City. Kids and teens over the age of 12 will now have to show proof of two doses to enter most public indoor settings, and private sector employees will have to show proof of one vaccination dose to return to work, impacting 184,000 companies.

"They are not major sources of transmission compared to adults, but, yes, children do transmit to others. They transmit to other children. They transmit to people in the home," said Dr. Jennifer Lighter, a pediatric epidemiologist at NYU Langone.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the private sector mandate is the strongest vaccine mandate in the country.

"The reason we are open while others are closed is because of vaccines and mandates," de Blasio said. "We need to double down on vaccines to get out of the COVID era."

With this being de Blasio's last week in office, he said he will finish off focusing his attention on fighting COVID.


The city has also had success with its vaccine booster initiative. It was announced last week that New Yorkers would receive $100 if they got the additional jab, and in that time 180,000 took advantage, CBS2's Kevin Rincon reported.

Another area of concern throughout the state is schools. Gov. Kathy Hochul has said it's her administration's goal to keep students in the classroom, adding right now there's no one metric for having them go back to remote learning.

"There's not a hard, fast number. There's just not a textbook number that's given to people to manage a pandemic, so you go with the best science, the best data, the best judgments you have," Hochul said.

"We understand now the huge cost of having children's education disrupted, in terms of their socialization, their mental health, as well as their progression educationally," state Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett added.

Bassett the state is keeping a close eye on COVID and kids, adding children in New York City have been getting infected at four to five times the rate of the rest of the state.

CBS2's Kevin Rincon and Ali Bauman contributed to this report.

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