Mayor de Blasio rolled out a new vaccination deal sweetener Tuesday — $100 to anyone who gets a booster shot before the end of the year.
The incentive comes as the federal government gears up to launch several new testing sites in the city amid an omicron-fueled surge in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.
The $100 booster bonus, built on a similar initiative employed by the de Blasio administration for the first two shots, is available for anyone getting a booster at vaccination sites operated by the city Health Department and the SOMOS Community Care network, the mayor said.
“It’s gonna 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,” de Blasio said in a briefing at City Hall.
The money is issued in pre-paid debit cards available in electronic or physical form and will be available through Dec. 31, de Blasio’s last day in office.
The effort is aimed at getting more shots into arms at a time when the city has once again turned into a COVID-19 hotspot because of the extremely contagious omicron variant, which already accounts for about 90% of cases in the New York area, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to data from the Health Department, the city’s daily average of coronavirus infections reached an explosive 9,297 new cases Tuesday, the highest data point in months. Hospitalizations are ticking up as well, with the seven-day average of new COVID-19 patient intakes per 100,000 residents reaching 1.93, the data showed.
In an eerie flashback to the spring of 2020, concerns over omicron have driven hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers to get tested in recent days, resulting in hours-long wait times at many sites.
De Blasio, who has drawn heat over the extensive wait times, said in his briefing that President Biden’s administration is expected to launch several federal testing sites in the city this week to help out.
“I’m very happy the federal government is doing this,” de Blasio said.
It was not immediately clear where the federal sites will be located or how many of them there will be.
A senior Biden administration official said the feds expect to open “the first several” sites in New York “before the Christmas holidays.”
“And we’re going to continue to add sites based on where states and communities have capacity constraints and where the state and local public health officials request our assistance,” the official said.
In addition to testing resources, the feds are sending 30 ambulances and accompanying medical personnel to New York, “so that if one hospital fills up, they can transport patients to open beds in other facilities,” according to a White House fact sheet. The administration is deploying similar resources to other states where omicron is wreaking havoc.
The shaky reintroduction of mass testing in the Big Apple came after de Blasio’s administration last month shuttered 20 of the city’s 54 testing locations.
On Monday, de Blasio said the city would open 23 new sites to address mounting demand, but many New Yorkers who have waited in testing lines for hours in the mid-December cold feel that is too little, too late.
“Three hours here and there’s still 12 people ahead of us,” tweeted Iris Quinones, a Harlem resident who was trying to get tested at a mobile site near her home on Monday.
In addition to long lines, some testing sites are being dinged for logistical hiccups.
State Attorney General Letitia James fired off a letter Tuesday to QLab Diagnostics, a private testing company contracted by the city, over reports that New Yorkers have waited upward of 96 hours to get their results back despite the firm promising to get back to them within 48 hours.
“Misleading statements about when individuals can expect COVID-19 test results is especially concerning during the holiday season, since many individuals are relying on these test results to make decisions about whether they can travel or attend family gatherings,” James wrote in the letter, adding that she expects QLab to “immediately” update its ads and testing site signage “to accurately reflect how long individuals can expect to wait before receiving COVID19 test results.”
Following James’ letter, LabQ’s website landing page features a bright yellow disclaimer saying, “Due to a significant increase in COVID testing, please allow 1 to 4 days for results.”
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