Nineteen urgent care medical clinics were temporarily closed in New Jersey and New York City on Wednesday, according to the firm that operates them, coming after President Joe Biden a day earlier vowed to expand testing for the Omicron variant.
“To preserve our ability to staff our sites, we are temporarily closing certain locations effective tomorrow, December 22. It is our hope that closing sites now will best allow us to avoid future closures as this surge continues,” CityMD, an urgent care clinic, said in a statement.
The closures were blamed on unspecified staffing issues. CityMD provided a list of locations that would be temporarily shut down.
Locations in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Queens, Westchester, and New Jersey will be affected. Many of the locations also offer COVID-19 testing, according to the firm’s website.
“Thank you for your patience, and for your appreciation of our hard-working teams who are coping with the extraordinary demand in the midst of the holiday season,” CityMD continued to say.
On Tuesday, Biden announced in a televised address to the nation that his administration will now expand testing for COVID-19 amid a reported surge of Omicron variant cases nationwide. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday seven additional city testing sites will be provided, bringing the total to 119.
De Blasio and New York health officials said that despite a historic surge of COVID-19 cases, the hospitalization rate doesn’t appear to be going up. Earlier this week, New York City’s chief medical officer conceded that the Omicron wave hospitalization rate is a mere fraction of the rate seen during previous COVID-19 waves, while early studies have suggested the variant presents much milder symptoms.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Monday reported that Omicron is rapidly spreading and appears to be the dominant COVID-19 variant in the country, representing some 73 percent of sequenced U.S. cases last week. The Delta strain, which emerged earlier this year, makes up about 26.6 percent of infections.
Biden said that starting in New York City, the federal government will set up more testing sites across the United States in the coming days. And a news release issued by the White House on Tuesday morning stipulated the federal government will send out some 500 million testing kits.
“Today, the President is announcing his Administration will purchase a half-billion at-home, rapid tests this winter to be distributed for free to Americans who want them, with the initial delivery starting in January 2022,” the press statement said.
CityMD didn’t say how long the closures would last. The privately-owned company has not responded to a request for comment.