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New York City Offering $100 Booster Incentive; De Blasio Says Vaccinations Still Key To Fighting Omicron

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The Omicron variant is now the dominant strain of coronavirus in New York, and Mayor Bill de Blasio says city residents need to move just as fast as the virus.

"It will be a tough few weeks, and we need to understand that, and we need to do everything possible to address that," de Blasio said Tuesday. "But look, this is going to be a temporary reality."

Back on Dec. 4, reported COVID cases hovered under 1,900 for a seven-day average. On Tuesday, it was nearly 9,300, a surge fueled by the more contagious new variant.

The mayor said another shutdown would "devastate" the city, and vaccinations remain the way forward.

"Vaccination is the way to protect ourselves against Omicron. Vaccination is the way to continue our recovery. Vaccination is the way for people to live their lives again. Vaccination equals freedom," he said.

WATCH: Mayor De Blasio Announces COVID Booster Incentive 

So he said the city will offer $100 incentives for booster shots between now and the end of the year at city-run or SOMOS Community Care sites, many of which are in underserved communities.

"I don't think we should forget that $100 is a lot of money nowadays. Many people are hurting because of this pandemic. Making this incentive available to a child or to a family, because they go to their primary care physician's office in their neighborhood and get a vaccine, is something that we think is really important," Somos US co-founder Henry R. Munoz III told CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis.

"It's going to make you feel a lot safer, a lot better that you got the booster. And you'll have some more cash in your pocket at the same time. That's going to be a good feeling, particularly this time of year," de Blasio said.

The mayor also said discussions are underway about possibly adding the booster as part of his vaccine mandates.

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

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

As a long line formed to get tested Tuesday night in Times Square, Michael Slater walked right in the city-run site to get boosted.

"I prefer the chance of getting sick from the vaccine, rather than the much better chance of getting sick if you don't get it. And on top of that, honestly, I've gotta admit, the $100 incentive certainly made a difference," said Slater, of Manhattan.

Then there are the many New Yorkers who continue to try to get tested. CBS2's John Dias spoke with people waiting in line at a mobile site outside the Manhattanville Houses in Harlem.

"I've been coming to this van for every two weeks for months, and I just walk in and out and it takes five minutes," Harlem resident Amanda Jacobsmeyer told Dias.

On Tuesday, because of high demand, it took her nearly two hours to get a test at the site. But she said she felt it was worth it before her flight to Nevada.

"I don't want to get on a plane with a bunch of people and be the ground zero of an outbreak," she said.


Not far away at Harlem Hospital, the line for testing stretched a whole city block and wrapped around the corner, where Dias found Darniece Foster and her fully vaccinated family getting tested.

"Two years in, for it to be a long line for testing is ridiculous," Foster said.

She said they were there because of a lack of testing in city schools.

"I would love to celebrate Christmas with my family, and I just want to be safe," she said. "A lot is happening in the schools, where like a third of their class is out with either quarantining or COVID."

Her daughter said it has been almost a year since her school tested her.

"After we all got vaccinated, the school thought it was OK to stop testing, because of the safety the vaccinations provided," said daughter Lea Hines.

Watch: Jenna DeAngelis' 11 p.m. Report On The Booster Shot Incentive

City leaders say only seven schools are currently closed, out of 1,600, due to COVID.

It took Rosa Wesley nearly three hours to get a rapid test at a city-run mobile site in Greenwich Village.

"It's just really brutal, because it's really cold out here," Wesley told CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas.

"New Yorkers shouldn't have to wait this long to get tested. There should be a better system by now I feel like. I got tested last week and never heard back. I sort of keep hitting these, hoping to find one to get a result," added Meghan Monahan of the East Village.


The city has 89 testing sites throughout the five boroughs and is adding 23 more this week, including in community settings like schools and libraries. But from Brooklyn to the Bronx, Dias continued to find long lines at testing sites in every borough.

New York City Council Health Committee Chair Mark Levine tweeted, "Let's bring Javits Center back, but this time as a mass testing site."

In Queens, elected leaders called on the city to add more testing locations throughout the western part of the borough, saying the mayor's recent additions aren't enough.

"Here in Astoria, we need a brick and mortar site. One that is permanently open," state Assembly member Zohran Mamdani said. "What we are doing now is a recipe for disaster."


President Joe Biden has taken notice of long testing lines nationwide, saying he'll add federal emergency testing sites around the country. First up, New York City.

"Before Christmas, the first sum of these federal testing sites will be up and running in New York City," Biden said.

Calling this a critical moment, he also announced he's readying 1,000 military doctors, nurses and medics to help at hospitals that are inundated with infections, and has ordered 500 million at-home tests that will be ready to be sent out in January, CBS2's Jessica Layton reported.

CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Jenna DeAngelis and Jessica Layton contributed to this report.

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