New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday that the city will distribute free at-home COVID-19 tests and masks to residents.
The move comes as the city is facing an uptick in COVID-19 cases coinciding with the emergence of the omicron variant. It averaged 2,899 new cases a day in the last week, according to the city.
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"It is clear that the omicron variant is here in New York City in full force," de Blasio said during a press briefing. "We want to use at-home testing a lot more. We want to make it more and more available to New Yorkers."
The city will distribute 1 million free masks and 500,000 free at-home testing kits to community organizations to give to the public, de Blasio said.
Additionally, the city will expand hours and capacity at its testing sites. The Big Apple will also add new testing sites. De Blasio said if people test positive, the city will provide services for them to help them through quarantine.
He argued that the key to defeating COVID-19 is through vaccination. The city currently requires businesses to mandate proof of vaccination for workers and patrons.
De Blasio said the city will "double down" on enforcing the requirements and will work to administer more booster shots. Roughly 1.5 million New Yorkers have received booster shots so far, according to de Blasio.
"The mandates that we have put in place are the way forward," he said. "We are going to double down on those and make sure they're being followed. We'll be out to businesses all over the city."
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De Blasio argued that despite the recent rise in cases in the city, it is one of the safest places from COVID-19 in the country due to its high vaccination rate.
The city estimates that 78.8% of its population of all ages has received at least one dose of the vaccine. This is above the national average of 72.3%, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.