For the last week, every passing day in New York has felt a little more ominous. Upstate counties are facing overwhelmed hospitals, and Covid-19 cases are surging in the city, even among the fully vaccinated, due in part to the new Omicron variant. Lines for PCR testing in my neighborhood stretch for blocks, and response times for those test results seem to be lagging. Restaurants shut their doors. Parties were canceled. The Brooklyn Nets were so desperate for healthy players they reactivated the vax-less Kyrie Irving—who was promptly forced to quarantine. And now we have the numbers to show for it: On Friday, New York state posted its highest recorded number of positive Covid-19 tests since the pandemic began.
There are a few big caveats to that number. The first is that in the Spring of 2020, when New York City was the epicenter of the global pandemic, testing was so limited it almost felt like a scandal that an entire NBA team could get them—so there’s no comparison with that moment. The second, of course, is that most of the adult population is vaccinated, and a significant number of people have gotten booster shots, and they seem to have a good deal of protection against the variant’s worst effects. This isn’t March of 2020, no matter how ominous the tick-tick-tick of canceled sporting events and disrupted travel plans might be.
But it still sucks. It’s been almost two years of this. It’s the holidays! Everyone’s traveling and people are trying to catch up on the cheer they missed last year. And even while many aspects of the pandemic are greatly improved—we have better treatment options, and vaccines, and understandings of how it spreads, and lots of masks, and tests—there are still familiar hang-ups. Tests are embarrassingly expensive (in the UK they’ll send you tests for free), and the Biden administration—which once mocked the notion of sending out free tests—has rolled out a Rube Goldberg-ish process to curb costs. Per the New York Times:
The administration has said that it plans to issue its rules for reimbursement by Jan. 15, and the plan will go into effect sometime after that.
The administration has already said that the plan will not provide retroactive reimbursement for tests that have already been purchased, which means that any tests you buy for the holidays will not be covered.
Stay safe, everyone. Get tested before you travel. And get that booster yesterday.