Vaccines, tests, masks are key to mitigate another COVID surge, officials reiterate

Order more free at-home COVID-19 tests and get vaccinated whether it is your first vaccine or a booster. That is the message from the Biden administration, which is urging Americans to get on board to prevent another COVID surge as we head into the holidays. 

"We don't want this winter to look like last winter or the winter before," said Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator.

Starting Thursday for a limited time this winter, the administration is offering up to four free at-home tests per household.

The administration is also collaborating with communities to open more pop-up and mobile vaccination sites and stands ready to ship critical personal protective equipment to states that might need help.

Nursing home residents are being urged to get vaccinated. Currently, less than half of them have gotten their booster. Therefore, the government is working with management.

"To make it easier to get vaccines on site in nursing homes," Jha said. "To make sure that treatments are available on site in nursing homes."

Hospitals are already struggling with spikes of the flu, RSV and COVID cases after Thanksgiving, prompting the White House to try to mitigate the impact of another surge.

South Shore University Hospital's Dr. Sanjey Gupta is urging New Yorkers to test often.

"With the holidays coming up, we expect to see rates going up more," Gupta, the chairperson of emergency management, said. "So it's important for people to test more and know their status."

He is also encouraging people to wear masks if they are comfortable doing so and to get their booster shots.

"What we've noticed with increased vaccinations is that there are less hospitalizations," Gupta said.