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New York City will distribute 1m KN95 face masks and 500,000 home tests in a bid to curb the accelerated spread of the coronavirus in the five boroughs.

The masks and test kits will be distributed through city testing and tracing services, clinics and community centers, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday as part of a multi-pronged plan to protect public health as the cold weather approaches and the holiday season approaches.

Dr Dave Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner, told a press conference that the seven-day average of new infections in the city had tripled in the past month (to around 3,700 today) and he expected case rates to continue to rise in the coming days, based on trajectories seen overseas.

The city’s positivity rate, at around 5.07 percent today, has “increased dramatically” over the past two weeks, Chokshi continued. This was “mainly due” to the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, he said.

The second confirmed case of Omicron in the United States was an individual from Minnesota who traveled to New York in late November to attend an anime convention. Cases linked to the new variant in the city have increased since then, with Chokshi saying the strain accounts for around 13% of new cases in New York City.

The positivity of Covid tests in New York is now “double in three days,” said Dr Jay Varma, senior public health adviser to de Blasio, in a tweet. “Um, we’ve never seen this before at #NYC,” he wrote.

Although case rates and positivity have increased, “we are not seeing a major change in hospitalizations,” de Blasio said. Hospitalizations tend to lag behind case changes, so any potential negative impact on patient admissions that could be directly caused by Omicron can still occur in a matter of weeks.

Among other measures that de Blasio announced the city would take in an effort to curb the increase in cases, there were plans to increase testing capacity by opening new sites and extending the hours of operation of existing sites. . The city is also reportedly doubling down on recalls with an “aggressive media campaign” and expedited inspections and enforcement of mask and vaccine warrants.

“What has worked for us as New Yorkers throughout the fight against Covid is to be aggressive, to be assertive, to take bold action. We have done it and we are going to do it a lot more because we have to stop this variant, ”said de Blasio.

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