President Joe Biden will deliver a speech on Tuesday to announce new Covid measures to fight the rapidly-spreading Omicron variant.
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It’s anticipated that he will go beyond his already revealed ‘Winter Plan’ and address booster shots, lockdowns and mask mandates.
Earlier this month Biden announced a Covid plan to battle the virus throughout the colder months, which included booster shots for all adults, vaccinations for kids in efforts to keep schools open and expanding free at-home Covid testing.
As of Saturday morning the number of confirmed Omicron cases in the US has nearly doubled in a period of 24 hours, with the variant confirmed in all but six states.
As of Saturday morning, there were 830 cases of the Omicron Covid-19 variant confirmed by DNA sequencing across the country, a 97 percent increase from Friday morning’s tally.
In reality, the true number of Omicron cases is much higher, as only 1 to 2 percent of all cases are sequenced for variant markers, but the testing data shows a disturbing national trend.
The CDC estimates that Omicron accounts for at least 13 percent of all new cases in New York, which on Friday recorded its highest single-day tally of new Covid-19 cases ever at 21,027.
‘The winter Covid-19 surge is here,’ warned New York Governor Kathy Hochul, urging everyone to get vaccinated and boosted.
Though New York’s hospitalizations, which tend to lag new cases, remain below their peaks, they have climbed 25 percent in the past two weeks, straining the state’s healthcare system.
Testing has now confirmed the presence of Omicron in every US state except for Oklahoma, Montana, North and South Dakota, Indiana, and Vermont, though the eventual confirmation of the highly transmissible variant in every state now seems assured.
The spread of the variant, which appears highly transmissible and able to evade immune response from vaccination or prior infection, has already pushed Europe to the brink of new lockdowns.
Dutch health experts are advising the Netherlands to impose a hard national lockdown before Christmas, and the country is expected to close all but essential stores from Sunday, sending panicked shoppers flocking to round up last-minute gifts before the restrictions descend.
As case numbers escalated, alarmed ministers in France, and Austria tightened travel restrictions. Paris cancelled its New Year’s Eve fireworks.
Denmark closed theaters, concert halls, amusement parks and museums. Ireland imposed an 8pm curfew on pubs and bars and limited attendance at indoor and outdoor events.
However in New York, outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio remains intent on holding his New Year’s Eve celebration at full capacity in Times Square. The party will mark the end of his eight-year reign, which expires on January 1.
De Blasio, like Governor Hochul, insisted on Friday that vaccination and precaution is the best way to combat the city’s Covid surge.
‘No, no, no,’ de Blasio told WNYC on Friday when asked about possible shutdowns of public schools and other activities.
‘Don’t fight yesterday’s war,’ he added. ‘This is not March of 2020. We’re one of the most highly vaccinated places in the United States of America.’
‘The more we vaccinate, the more we can get through this,’ De Blasio said. Another lockdown ‘would really destroy, in so many ways, people’s livelihoods and it would, I think, after everything people have been through – it would be traumatizing.’
Meanwhile residents in The Big Apple are now struggling to even get a Covid test as the city suffers a surge of infections and each new positive test is kicking off frantic text messages to friends and colleagues warning them to get tested.
The looming Christmas holiday is prompting people to seek more tests than ever before prior to traveling to be reunited with family members across the country.
The spike in supply demand has stretched the city’s testing capacity to the limit, with wait times of more than two hours on Saturday at some city testing centers and pharmacies in Manhattan running out of at-home test kits amid huge demand.
Furious New Yorkers are now questioning why De Blasio’s administration was not prepared for the crisis, nearly a month after Hochul declared a state of emergency over the Omicron threat.
‘New York City’s test sites don’t have enough capacity, staffing or supervision,’ tweeted New York Times editorial board member Mara Gay. ‘Almost two years in, there is no excuse for making sick New Yorkers – or any sick people, anywhere – wait for hours in cold rain to get tested.’
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According to the Walgreens website, no Walgreens or Duane Reade pharmacy locations in Manhattan had home test kits or appointments for PCR or rapid testing available on Saturday afternoon.
‘We have recently seen an elevated demand for testing, and our teams are working to ensure our customers are being cared for to support this demand,’ a Walgreens spokesman told DailyMail.com in a statement.
City-run Health + Hospitals free testing sites were overwhelmed with demand, with the Fort Hamilton site in Brooklyn reporting a wait time exceeding two hours.
The city is responding to the pressure by opening H+H testing sites seven days a week, opening five new sites, and the city sites are also offering free at-home test kits, according to state Senator Kevin Parker of Brooklyn.