A COVID-19 testing site opened Wednesday in Hempstead at Kennedy Memorial Park, which Mayor Waylyn Hobbs Jr said puts the community "ahead of the curve." Credit: Howard Schnapp

This story was reported by John Asbury, Matt Clark, Lisa L. Colangelo, Keldy Ortiz and Craig Schneider. It was written by Schneider.

The battle to beat back the COVID-19 surge intensified Wednesday, as New York hit new highs in cases, Long Island hospitalizations spiked by the largest single-day total since the pandemic began and Gov. Kathy Hochul said she expects virus rates to grow into January.

State and Long Island officials are fighting the rapidly spreading virus on several fronts, including opening additional testing sites in Nassau and Suffolk and making testing kits more available, with events such as a distribution at Mitchel Field in Uniondale planned for Thursday.

But challenges continue. CityMD announced the temporary closure of two more testing sites on Long Island. People continue to wait in lines for hours to get tested. The extremely contagious omicron variant is still spreading, the cold weather isn't going away and New Year's promises to bring more people together and more spread of the virus.

"We're basically preparing for a January surge. We know it's coming, and it would be naive to think it won't," Hochul said during a news briefing in upstate Plattsburgh on Wednesday. "We do think there's going to be a spike in cases that continues."

Cars line up for COVID-19 testing at Heckscher State Park...

Cars line up for COVID-19 testing at Heckscher State Park in East Islip on Wednesday morning. Credit: James Carbone

New York saw a new single-day pandemic high of positive cases on Tuesday, officials said. The state had 67,090 new cases, a single-day jump of 26,310 cases from the prior day, according to state figures.

Tuesday's total exceeds by 17,382 cases the prior single-day high of 49,708, which was set last Friday.

More than 10,000 of those new cases on Tuesday were on Long Island.

What to know

  • In test results reported on Tuesday, New York hit new highs in cases and Long Island hospitalizations spiked by the largest single-day total since the pandemic began.
  • Officials are fighting the virus through additional testing sites in Nassau and Suffolk and events such as a distribution of testing kits at Mitchel Field in Uniondale planned for Thursday.
  • Citing staffing concerns, the CityMD urgent care chain temporarily shuttered locations in Mineola and Patchogue, after closing locations in Merrick and Bay Shore last week. 

Nassau and Suffolk both saw significant increases. Nassau had 5,968 new cases on Tuesday, up from 3,523 the prior day. The Tuesday number came from 31,373 total tests, for a daily positivity rate of 19%.

And Suffolk had 4,577 cases, a significant increase from 2,811 the prior day, state figures said. Out of 19,529 total tests, that amounted to a daily positivity rate of 23.4%.

The seven-day positivity rate reached 17.32% on Long Island.

New efforts to distribute tests

Meanwhile, Nassau and Suffolk officials unveiled additional efforts Wednesday to help people receive tests for COVID-19.

Nassau County will distribute 20,000 COVID-19 at-home test kits via a drive-thru event Thursday, and Suffolk County opened a new county-run testing site.

The Nassau event will occur at Mitchel Field in Uniondale from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The kits were provided by New York State. Nassau County residents will receive up to three kits per car on a first-come, first-served basis, free of charge.

"As omicron continues to spread in our communities and residents continue to see their loved ones for the holidays, the county remains committed to offering reliable COVID-19 testing for residents so we can contain disease spread," Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said in a statement.

Suffolk County officials said tests began becoming available on a first-come, first-served basis on Wednesday at Heckscher State Park's Field 8 in East Islip.

The site will be open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., handling about 1,000 tests per day, the county said.

The new testing site opened Wednesday to a long line of cars. County officials said the drive-thru rapid testing reached capacity by 9 a.m., forcing them to close the line. They noted many of the cars had multiple passengers and more than 1,000 people were tested throughout the day.

"Unfortunately, these long lines are being felt at testing sites all across the county, as a record number of individuals seek testing," said a Suffolk County spokesperson.

Also, two previously announced state-operated testing sites opened on Wednesday, at IBEW Local 25 in Hauppauge and Kennedy Memorial Park in Hempstead. Appointments can be scheduled at appointments.bioreference.com/nystatecovidtesting, not by calling the locations.

COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide increased Tuesday to 6,767 patients, a growth of 594 patients after another large increase Monday of 647 patients, according to state data.

On Long Island, hospitalizations increased by 105 patients on Tuesday to 1,106 after another large increase of 102 patients Monday.

The statewide increase on Tuesday of 594 patients is the largest single-day jump in hospitalizations since April 6, 2020, during the early days of the pandemic, except for Monday's 647 patients.

Long Island's increase in hospitalizations on Tuesday is the largest since April 6, 2020, when there were 656 new patients statewide and 128 on Long Island.

In addition, 97 people died statewide from coronavirus-related illness on Tuesday, a spike of 20 above the day before's total of 77, according to state figures. Three of those deaths were in Nassau and five in Suffolk, figures said.

The new total in state deaths represents the largest tally since March 28, 2021, when 111 deaths were reported.

Long waits on long lines

Some Islanders on Wednesday endured long waits on long lines to get tested.

More than 50 people were lined up around the building at Kennedy Memorial Park in Hempstead.

By noon, the site had already conducted nearly 250 PCR tests inside the gym of the community center and officials expected to complete a total of 800 tests by Wednesday night.

Marie Emile of Hempstead waited in line for about three hours Wednesday morning to get tested with her 4-year-old son Matthew. She said a family member tested positive and she wanted to make sure she was healthy.

"We're glad it opened up, but it's a long wait in line," she said. "It's a comfort I can get tested so I know my status."

Dana Murphy, 35, of Freeport, wore a mask and said he began coughing and showing other symptoms on Tuesday night. He said he was concerned family members may have been infected at Christmas.

"I came down to get tested and see if there's anything going on more than a cold," he said. "Hopefully it's not COVID and I don't want to spread it among anyone else."

Two more LI CityMD locations close

Elsewhere, the CityMD urgent care chain is temporarily shutting locations in Mineola and Patchogue, citing the need to "preserve our ability to staff our sites" amid the coronavirus pandemic surge, the company said Tuesday on its website.

The two CityMD locations are among 12 additional sites closing temporarily in the metropolitan area, after 19 other closures were announced by the chain last week.

People hoping to get services at the Mineola site at 292 Herricks Rd. are redirected to CityMD Carle Place at 235 Glen Cove Rd.

Those looking for the Patchogue location at 129 Sunrise Hwy. are directed to CityMD Sayville at 5600 Sunrise Hwy.

Last week, CityMD closed locations in Merrick and in Bay Shore because they were inundated with people asking for COVID-19 tests and lacked the staff to keep up, the company said.

"We don’t have a time frame of reopenings that I can share at this point," Joy Lee-Calio, the director of PR and communications for Summit Health, which owns CityMD, wrote in an email on Wednesday.

As the cold weather and holidays have brought a spike in COVID-19 positivity and testing demand, Nassau has also partnered with Northwell Health to offer COVID-19 PCR testing at Christopher Morley Park in Roslyn.

The drive-thru COVID-19 test site is available to all residents at no cost Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Appointments are required and you can make them at northwell.edu/coronavirus-covid-19/pcr-testing.

A new drive-thru site opened across from Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead on Tuesday as well.

The rapid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are self-administered by people in their cars and returned to health officials, who can usually process a result the next day using Northwell’s Lab Gold testing software.

Red Creek Park in Hampton Bays will provide school-required and community testing on Mondays only, starting next week, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and with a capacity of 500 tests per day.

In addition, a location at Cathedral Pines County Park in Middle Island will offer tests on Tuesdays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. That site opens on Jan. 4 and can administer up to 500 tests a day.

Northwell Health officials said it is administering an average of 20,000 COVID-19 tests a day at its facilities, including community sites, hospitals, doctor's offices and urgent care centers.

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