This summer, New York City Mayor Eric Adams said that as the threat posed by COVID-19 evolves, the tools used to fight it have to evolve too. “We’re not going to hold onto something that’s an old weapon merely because we had it,” Adams said in July. “We’re going to create new weapons to fight this new war.” The statement came as Adams was asked to respond to the scrapping of a color-coded COVID-19 alert system that provided guidance on when to reimplement measures like mask and vaccine mandates based on rising infection rates and hospitalizations.
At the time, the city said that it was reevaluating the alert system, which included recommendations for both individuals and the city government to respond to rising rates. Currently, the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s COVID-19 prevention guidance posted on its website only includes recommendations for individuals, including wearing a high-quality mask indoors and around crowds, staying up to date on vaccinations, testing before travel and gatherings, and staying home if sick.
Over the past two and a half years, tools for fighting COVID-19 have evolved, including in New York City. In addition to doing away with the color-coded COVID-19 alert system, New York City has backed away from other measures, such as removing the Key to NYC vaccine requirement for indoor venues like bars and theaters, lifting the vaccine mandate for the private sector and discontinuing a program that allowed people who have tested positive for COVID-19 to isolate in hotels for free. The New York Times also recently reported that the operator of the Pandemic Response Lab planned to close the facility, which processed millions of COVID-19 tests and contributed to the city’s variant surveillance efforts.
As cases start to rise again in New York and elsewhere – New York City has a roughly 14.2% positive case rate – here are some of the tools the city said it’s currently relying on to fight COVID-19.
Widely available COVID-19 vaccines and boosters continue to be a primary weapon for the city. New Yorkers can find and make appointments to receive the vaccine on the city’s portal. “The city continues to partner with community organizations and providers to promote vaccination and host events across the city,” Patrick Gallahue, a spokesperson for the city health department, wrote in an email, adding that the city also has ongoing media campaigns. A recent video from city Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan recommends getting the latest COVID-19 booster and flu shot. According to city data, 80% of city residents have completed a primary vaccine series, while 40% have received additional or booster doses.
As at-home testing has become more widely available, the Adams administration has focused on expanding access to those tests. Free test pickups are available at libraries, museums and other public places across the city. According to NYC Health + Hospitals, the city’s Test & Treat Corps (formerly known as the Test & Trace Corps) is still expanding its test distribution locations, with more than 240 walk-up distribution sites currently in operation and partnerships with community organizations to distribute tests. The Test & Treat Corps has distributed over 73 million free at-home tests so far.
In-person testing is still available, including through the health department’s six express testing sites, which offer PCR results within 24 hours. There were previously nine such sites available at health department clinics. In addition to the 240 walk-up distribution sites for at-home tests, the Test & Treat Corps also manages 75 mobile Test to Treat units and 19 Health + Hospitals and Gotham Health sites that offer in-person testing, according to a spokesperson for the corps. Testing sites can be found here.
The accessibility of COVID-19 treatments has evolved too, with antiviral drugs like Paxlovid becoming widely available. People who have tested positive for COVID-19 can be evaluated and prescribed treatment at Test & Treat Corps’ Test to Treat mobile sites, which also administer tests. New Yorkers can also receive treatment through the 24/7 hotline at 212-COVID-19. Free home delivery of Paxlovid is also available, Gallahue said, by having providers submit prescriptions through Alto pharmacy.