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New York to set up hundreds of rapid COVID-19 testing sites, Gov. Cuomo says

On Tuesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, on what he called day two of a four-day State of the State Address, said the state aims to open hundreds of rapid-testing sites similar to the one at the Buffalo Bills playoff game, in order to speed the return of restaurants, theaters, offices and other commercial spaces. Credit: NY Governor's Office

New York State will open hundreds of pop-up rapid COVID-19 testing sites to encourage the reopening of restaurants, theaters and office buildings while allowing businesses to potentially reduce capacity restrictions, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday.

During the second of four State of the State addresses, Cuomo outlined plans to set up a network of rapid testing sites in major city centers, starting with New York City, to provide residents with added protection as they resume activities or patronize businesses.

"We need to begin to act now," Cuomo said. "If we don't, dining will remain at levels too low for restaurants to survive. Offices will remain empty, hurting the service businesses that depend on those office workers. Theaters and sports venues will sit empty. People will remain out of work, with all the psychological as well as financial trauma that entails."

It was not immediately clear how many pop-up rapid testing sites would open on Long Island.

Health experts warn that rapid antigen tests, which provide results in 15 minutes, are often wrong, particularly for those not showing symptoms.

A new CDC study found rapid tests were correct about 80% of the time for those feeling ill. But the accuracy figures drop to 41% when used for screening of asymptomatic individuals.

As a model for the new pilot program, Cuomo cited the recent Buffalo Bills playoff game, which allowed 6,700 fans into Bills Stadium. Rapid testing was used in the days leading up to the game to screen for positive cases.

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The state, Cuomo said, also is partnering with major commercial real estate firms in New York City to make testing available to tenants in their buildings. The move, he said, could help employers bring more workers back to their offices. Major commercial operators with more than 100 million square feet of office space have already agreed to offer regular testing to their tenants, Cuomo said.

In February, the state will launch the "New York Arts Revival," a public-private partnership that will organize pop-up performances and events across the state.

Cuomo says the initiative, which will feature Long Island native Amy Schumer, Chris Rock, Renée Fleming, Wynton Marsalis, and Hugh Jackman, is critical to reviving jobs in the state's artistic community, which has been decimated by the pandemic. The program will culminate in the spring with the opening of a new venue at Pier 55 and the 20th annual Tribeca Film Festival.

"We cannot wait until summer to turn the lights back on the arts and provide a living wage for artists," Cuomo said. "We will not let the curtain fall on their careers, or on the future of our cities."

Quick tests

What to know about COVID-19 rapid tests:

* Rapid antigen tests are taken with a nasal or throat swab and detect a protein that is part of the coronavirus.

* The tests are inexpensive and results are generally available in 15 minutes

* These tests are particularly useful for identifying a person who is at or near peak infection. A new CDC study shows the tests were accurate about 80% of the time for individuals showing symptoms or signs of the virus.

* But among asymptomatic patients, CDC data shows the accuracy of the antigen test dips to 41.2%.

* PCR tests, which detect the genetic material specific to the virus within days of infection, are nearly 100% accurate but the turnaround time is longer, often in the two to three day range.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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