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Nassau to give out 40G COVID-19 test kits at Coliseum, new County Exec Blakeman says

Nassau County Executive-elect Bruce Blakeman, center, followed by

Nassau County Executive-elect Bruce Blakeman, center, followed by Legis.-elect Mazi Melesa Pilip and Legis. Howard Kopel, arrives at a news conference at the Nassau County Legislative building in Mineola on Friday. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Nassau County Executive-elect Bruce Blakeman announced plans Friday to distribute 40,000 testing kits this weekend at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum.

Blakeman, who takes over at 12:01 a.m. New Year's Day, said 20,000 testing kits, with two tests in each kit, would be distributed Saturday and again Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Coliseum parking lot in Uniondale.

"We have been watching very carefully what has been done in the last few months and how we can improve that," Blakeman said during a news conference at the Nassau County Legislative building. "Rather than directing resources to fining businesses with mask mandates, we are directing our resources to make sure people get test kits, opening up PCR testing sites and mobile vaccination units so every community in Nassau County can have access to free vaccinations."

Blakeman said the Coliseum was selected to make it easier and faster to distribute tests after residents faced two-hour delays at Mitchel Field, where kits were dispensed on Thursday.

Tests will be handed out on a first-come, first-served basis and each car will receive three kits, for a total of six tests.

The National Institutes of Health is studying the accuracy of rapid tests to omicron, and initial laboratory results indicated that the tests "do detect the omicron variant but may have reduced sensitivity," meaning they could be less likely to identify infections, according to a Food and Drug Administration notice published online Tuesday. Clinical studies involving patients with the virus are continuing, the FDA said.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told The Washington Post that uncertainty about the accuracy of rapid tests was among the reasons the CDC did not recommend requiring a negative rapid test to end isolation after becoming infected.

On Friday, Blakeman said the Coliseum had longer ramps and more aisles for cars to enter. The county will triple staffing, with 75 people from the police and health departments and the office of emergency management.

"Everyone that wants a test can get it. We think this will be a much better site and avoid all the problems we had yesterday with people being frustrated and the interruption of traffic," Blakeman said. "It was a poor location … and we are trying to remediate that by having it at the … Coliseum."

Blakeman said the county had seen a spike in hospitalizations but Nassau's death rate and ICU admissions remained low even as the daily positivity rate reached nearly 24%.

"We anticipated this. We knew this was going to happen after Christmas and people getting together for Christmas parties and family functions, we were told by health care professionals to expect a rise in COVID cases," Blakeman said. "We prepared for that. Everything is going fine. We are not in crisis. Right now, we’re in really good shape in Nassau County."

With David Olson

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