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Hours-Long Lines in the Cold and Rain: Covid Test Hell in New York City

Covid cases are surging in NYC as the Omicron strain spreads across the world. Those hoping to get tested are facing an hellish experience, waiting in freezing weather and in some cases being turned away for a lack of available tests.

Molly Rosenzweig

December 20, 2021
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Image: Max Guliani

The number of people who have tested positive for Covid-19 in New York is higher than at any point in the pandemic, with 21,027 new coronavirus cases reported in New York state on Friday – the highest single-day total on record.  That’s a 194 percent increase over fourteen days.  The daily rate of positive tests for New York City is 11.589 percent.

These are just the numbers for those who were able to get tested .Across NYC, getting tested has become a hellish experience amidst a massive surge in cases attributed to the highly contagious Omicron variant. Those hoping to get tested face long lines in freezing weather and many people are being turned away at Covid test sites.  At-home Covid tests are nowhere to be found while the corporations that produce them make huge profits. 

People are desperate to get tested before the holidays. Elderly people are sitting in lawn chairs in front of City MD in 30 degree New York winter weather, wrapped in blankets waiting for tests. People wait for hours with restless children in the cold. 

20 covid testing centers were shut down in November, due to lower test positivity rates.  Mayor Bill de Blasio only plans to add back 8 fixed-location testing centers as cases exponentially grow.

Here are images of what it’s like to try to get a Covid test in New York City right now. 

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United States

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