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With Omicron Now On-The-Move Across Upstate, Schumer Says Expanding Access To Testing ASAP Is Critical Key To Keeping Variant Under Control

Senator Wants FEMA Mobile Testing Sites To Launch In Struggling Upstate Communities That Can’t Keep Up With Rising Cases

Schumer: Winter + Variants = Perfect Storm For Surging Cases; Feds Must Get Upstate NY The Support It Needs On The Frontlines Of Latest COVID Wave 

With COVID’s Omicron variant spreading and Upstate New York overwhelmed by the latest surge, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer launched a major push to get the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to expand testing capacity and support for Upstate communities.  Schumer made a personal call to FEMA Assistant Administrator Keith Turi and Acting FEMA Region 2 Administrator Chad Gorman to urge them to deploy 200 mobile testing sites in New York, 100 across New York State and an additional 100 in New York City. Schumer said that expanding access to testing is key to stopping the spread of COVID-19, especially as we enter the peak of holiday travel and the heart of the harsh winter months.

“Upstate New York is seeing record high COVID cases, and with variants like Omicron already here, we must stop the spread in its tracks and that means testing testing testing. That is why I am calling on FEMA to immediately deploy mobile testing sites across Upstate New York, to give struggling communities the support they need to keep their residents safe,” said Senator Schumer. “Especially as people travel over the winter holidays, easy access to testing is critical to ensure the safety of themselves and loved ones. FEMA must provide Upstate communities the support they need to protect public health and to stay ahead of this variant into the winter.”

New York State yesterday saw a record over 28,000 new coronavirus infections over a 24-hour period, signifying a significant increase in case counts from just a week ago.

Schumer’s request comes on the heels of his successful push for the federal government to provide free at-home tests to New York community health centers & mobile sites. President Biden announced earlier this week that the federal government would deliver 500 million free at-home rapid testing starting in January. Schumer said that these at home testing kits in tandem with 200 mobile testing sites in the communities that need them most is vital to protecting the health of New Yorkers.

“We now have the testing infrastructure and tools we didn’t have early on in the pandemic,” said Schumer. “It’s one of the keys to stop this surge and keep recovery going.”

According to the World Health Organization, the most effective steps individuals can take to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus is to keep a physical distance of at least 6-feet; wear a well-fitting mask; open windows to improve ventilation; avoid poorly ventilated or crowded spaces; keep hands clean; cough or sneeze into a bent elbow or tissue; and get vaccinated.

A copy of Senator Schumer’s original letter to FEMA appears below:

Dear Administrator Criswell:

I write today to ask for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) assistance as we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent increase in cases due to the Omicron variant. The spike in cases has brought upon an increased demand for testing that is sure to strain the already robust testing infrastructure in New York City. In addition to supporting the City of New York’s request for an increased supply of at-home test kits, I ask that FEMA authorize the opening of 100 mobile test sites in New York City, and 100 additional mobile test sites across the rest of the state, including in Long Island.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, FEMA has played a central role in New York City’s fight against COVID-19. While I am grateful for these efforts and for the work of FEMA staffers, I ask that FEMA continue this partnership and build on its efforts as cases increase due to the Omicron variant. On December 21, 2021 New York City recorded its highest 7-day daily average of cases at nearly 9,500 cases. As reports of daily cases and hospitalizations continue to trend upward, it is vital that FEMA provide the City with the necessary resources to help slow this spread. With more testing capabilities in the form of at-home kits and testing sites, the City can better gauge the trends of this variant and provide more accurate guidance and information to residents.

Thank you again for your leadership and assistance over the past year as New York and the nation continue battling COVID-19. FEMA has been an invaluable partner in combatting this pandemic and I ask that as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly you continue this partnership and swiftly provide New York City the increased at-home testing kits requested in their letter to the Administration and authorize the opening of 100 testing sites across the City and 100 additional sites across the State.  

I appreciate your attention to this important matter and look forward to your response. Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office with any questions