Covid surge NYC: Free COVID tests, 500K rapid tests to be distributed

In a scene not seen since the start of the pandemic, long lines are forming outside of New York City clinics that offer COVID-19 tests. It comes as the omicron variant spreads rapidly in the city.

Long lines formed outside a CityMD location on the Upper East Side of Manhattan on Thursday morning. It has been a daily sight at that medical clinic and others across the entire city.  City MD is bringing back virtual queues to keep lines shorter.  It's something they did at the beginning of the pandemic.

Manhattan Borough President-elect Mark Levin said, "It's outrageous that two years in it's still so tough to get a test in NYC."

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Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced that the city would distribute 500,000 rapid at-home free covid tests through community organizations to ease the crowds. 

De Blasio said there had been a "very substantial increase" in COVID cases. He added that the omicron variant was "in full force" across the five boroughs. 

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"This variant moves fast. We need to move faster," the mayor said at a news briefing in Brooklyn.

The city will also hand out 1 million KN95 masks through the city's Test and Trace Corps, community-based organizations, and clinics, according to the mayor.

NYC COVID Test Locations

There are 89 testing sites in all five boroughs.  23 more NYC covid test sites are coming online this week. Three are mobile sites and 20 are brick and mortar locations bringing the number in the city up to 112.

Mobile Testing Sites
NOTE: NYC H+H/Gotham and saliva self-testing sites will end testing at 2:00 PM on Friday, December 24. All testing sites will be closed on Saturday, December 25.
Availability is subject to change due to inclement weather.
Mobile testing sites are currently only testing people 4 years and older, unless otherwise noted.

At-home testing

At-home testing for COVID-19 is now available to all immunocompromised New Yorkers and those ages 65 and older. To schedule an in-home appointment, call (929) 298-9400 between 9:00 AM and 7:00 PM (7 days a week)

New York City COVID tests

The city runs its own sites that have shorter lines than private clinics. The city plans to add more sites and extend the hours they are open.

The city-run COVID-19 testing sites are walk-in only and no appointments are needed.


"I do expect cases will continue to increase in the coming days, and this is based on the trajectory that we're following from other countries like South Africa, the United Kingdom and Denmark," Dr. Dave Chokshi, the city's health commissioner, said at the mayor's briefing.

New York state reported nearly 18,300 new cases of the virus Wednesday, the third-highest total for any single day since COVID-19 tests became widely available to the public in the spring of 2020. Nearly 83,000 people have tested positive in the seven-day period that ended Wednesday, the most for any such period since last January.

Testing is part of a six-pronged attack as the city tries to handle a surge in cases. The city will also increase inspections for coronavirus safety violations.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.