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Stocking stuffers: New Yorkers rush to get COVID test kits before Christmas

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Stocking stuffers: New Yorkers rush to get COVID test kits before Christmas

This Christmas, take-home COVID-19 tests are apparently on many last-minute shopping lists.

Instead of traditional stocking stuffers, New Yorkers rushed Thursday to get their hands on free at-home coronavirus tests as the highly transmissible Omicron variant spreads ahead of the pandemic-dampened holiday, prompting numerous sites to run out of the coveted kits within hours.

At a city-run handout location at 65th Street in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, more than 200 people wrapped around the block were left empty handed when the site ran out of the 2,000 rapid testing tools at about 10:40 a.m. on the first day of their gratis distribution. 

“This shows it’s not enough. The demand is very high. If you came out with 5,000 to 10,000, you would have takers for all,” said Rondo Moses, 59, a management consultant from Clinton Hill. 

“The idea is good but it’s poorly executed and it’s not these guys’ fault,” he added of the workers passing out the boxes. “They can only give out what they have.”

Many of those lucky enough to get their hands on the do-it-yourself instruments wanted to ensure they weren’t infected before traveling to see loved ones.

Asif Memon, a Park Slope resident, came with his wife and two young children to get his hands on the kits at the Brooklyn location ahead of a family trip to North Carolina.

At one distribution spot in Manhattan, the 2,000-kit supply ran out within three hours, leaving about 40 people waiting for another supply delivery.
William Farrington

“We are traveling for a few days to see the grandparents in North Carolina so we want to make sure we are negative,” Mermon, 43, told The Post. “I want to be on the safe side.”

 His wife Fauzia Tariq said she was notified her vaccinated daughter came into close contact with a student who tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting the family to delay their plans.

“We were supposed to leave today. We pushed it back to Sunday to make sure everybody is safe“ explained Tariq, 38. “We will take the tests on Sunday. I am hoping the results are negative.  If there is a positive, we will cancel the trip. We will be disappointed because the grandparents are looking forward to seeing the kids but safety is first.” 

A city employee hands a New Yorker a COVID testing kit.
Testing kits were limited to one per person, prompting many to bring their entire families.
Paul Martinka

She added, “Both my parents are high risk so we won’t take that chance.”

Just before 12:20 p.m., 200 boxes, each with six to eight kits, arrived at the 65th Street spot. 

“This is a blessing,” Carol Rotuno, 86, told The Post while staring at the box just before the supply was depleted. “It will help people.”

At Masaryk Towers in Lower Manhattan, where the kits began being dolled out at 8 a.m., about 40 people were waiting for the Abott antigen tests when they ran out of the 2,000-kit supply at 11 a.m., before the stock was replenished about one hour later.

Some seeking kits were irked by the site running out of them.

“I can’t stand here for 90 minutes,” fumed one woman passing by. “What a f–king mess.”

“I can’t be intimate with my lady friend without a test, so I need to wait,” said Andrew Grell, 62. “I understand there’s a limited supply of tests, it’s frustrating, I’d like to know my results. I got a COVID test Sunday, and they were supposed to mail me a letter with my results, but I never got it. They’re overwhelmed.”

“This was predictable, people are going home for the holidays,” Lauren Avallone, 29, a SoHo resident, said of the long lines. “The city failed us.”

Workers hand out COVID test kits
Some people waited in the cold and on lines for their testing kits for 90 minutes, while others waited several hours.
William Farrington
Workers hand out COVID test kits
At some locations, workers told people awaiting test kits they had run out of them and weren’t sure when or whether the supply would be restocked.
Robert Miller

Ivan Vera, who lives on the Lower East Side, was driven to the mobile at-home test kits site by frustration about past experiences getting tested the traditional way.

“I want a test just in case out of precaution. Everywhere I look for a test. Brooklyn, Urgent Cares, the lines are too long so I leave. I’m a little annoyed that I need to wait another two hours for a take-home test,” said Vera, 23. “I’m spending Christmas with my family so it’s important to get tested so I don’t spread the virus.”

Miriam K., a 21-year-old student, said she was considering abandoning the attempt to get the kit in lower Manhattan amid frigid temperatures.

Truck filled with empty cardboard boxes that once had testing kits.
Inside view of a truck that had 2,000 testing kits, but was left with empty cardboard boxes even as lines continued to wrap around blocks.
Robert Miller

“I think I might step off the line. My sister has COVID and I’ve been delivering food to her doorstep and I just wanna be safe,” she said. “All the lines to get a rapid tests are 3-4 hours, it’s ridiculous we need to wait that long. Now it’s freezing outside and a lot of older people are waiting in line.” 

For his part, Greg Atkins, 53, stormed off the queue, saying he wished he could receive the kits via mail rather than waiting out in the cold for them,

“They need to mail the kits to people’s houses, like they do with other junk mail. I’m leaving,” he told The Post. “I’m not waiting for two hours to get a take home test, I’ll get Covid waiting in line.”

New Yorkers line up for COVID testing kits.
While some expressed gratitude for the free testing kits, many New Yorkers were left frustrated with the city’s rollout.
Paul Martinka

In Brooklyn, IT manager Ayman Zein lamented the disorganization of the site and that only one item per person was allotted.

“I would like to get one for my wife and two kids, but it’s only one per person,” said Zein, 37. “I wouldn’t take more than one. It’s selfish. “I respect what they are doing here but it should be more organized.”

Gina Pirozzi, 64, went to get her test kit out of concern for her elderly mother.

A worker hands out free testing kits.
The city saw positive rates at below 3 percent on a seven-day average at the beginning of December, and in three weeks rose to 11.38 percent as of Tuesday, according to city data.
Robert Miller

“I have a 98 year-old mother and I want to test her. My mom is bedridden. She seems to be having the sniffles and I want to make sure. I travel on the express bus. I need to be extra cautious, plain and simple.”

She told The Post she planned to enforce precautionary measures for those attending the Christmas Eve festivities she’s hosting.

“We are supposed to be having 13 people tomorrow night,” Pirozzi said. “We told them they have to be tested.”

New Yorkers line up for COVID testing kits in the Bronx.
Many New Yorkers hopped off the long lines, saying it wasn’t worth the wait.
Robert Miller

The rush to get the test kits comes after Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday announced five at-home test distribution sites, in a move aimed at reducing the recently long lines at run testing locations during the coronavirus surge driven by the Omicron variant.

“This is really important because we want to make sure, you know, of course for those who can go to one of the testing sites, get the PCR test. That’s great. But we want to make sure more and more of the at-home tests are available as an alternative,” he explained during a virtual press briefing. “We want to make sure testing goes well. There will be some lines. There’s no doubt about it, particularly at the private sites. But our job is to minimize the lines at the city-run sites and at our partner sites.”

The announcement came after the city saw positive rates at below 3 percent on a seven-day average at the beginning of December, and in three weeks rose to 11.38 percent as of Tuesday, according to city data. On Wednesday, New York State hit a record high of 28,924 cases.

Worker hands out COVID testing kits in the Bronx.
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday announced five at-home test distribution sites, in a move aimed at reducing the recently long lines at run testing locations during the coronavirus surge driven by the Omicron variant.
Paul Martinka

On Thursday in The Bronx, outside the Morrison Avenue–Soundview station, the BinaxNOW Self Test 2T tests ran out just before 12 p.m.

 Nick Johnson told The Post before joining the queue that he searched four CVS pharmacies for the test kits but they sold out.

“You just can’t find the kits anywhere,” Johnson, 36, said.  “I would have liked more kits for my wife and children but I’ll keep trying all day to find more.”

New Yorkers line up for free COVID testing kits.
Line waiting for Covid home test kits that were being handed out to the public free at 80 Columbia Street early Thursday. A mobile vaccination truck was also at the location.
William Farrington

Father Hector Robles, 46, was grateful for the testing kit he collected but worried how he would ration it should COVID spread through his family. 

“Something’s better than nothing,” Robles said.  “But I have a family of four at home, including 10- and 8-year-old boys and my wife, and only one kit.”

Shortly after 12 p.m, workers told people awaiting test kits they had run out of them and weren’t sure when they would be restocked. 

A woman accepts a free COVID testing kit.
Many New Yorkers waiting on line expressed frustration that the sites weren’t equipped with enough kits, calling the need “predictable.”
William Farrington

Ramon Pema, 51, wanted a test before spending Christmas with his elderly mother, but gave up his spot in line after waiting 30 minutes. 

“I can’t wait because we have no idea if or when they’ll have any tests,” Pema said, adding that he hoped his sister had more luck getting the testing equipment at a nearby pharmacy.

The Bronx site was resupplied at 2:15 p.m., to the relief of a cold 16-year-old, Niah White, who waited more than two hours for the tests. 

“You do what you gotta do to be safe. We’re not playing games around here,” she told The Post. “My school has been getting a lot of cases, so I didn’t want to risk giving COVID to my family at Christmas.”

A woman and her daughter show off their testing kits.
Many said the testing kits were a precaution ahead of the holiday season.
Paul Martinka

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker
USA TODAY Sports

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers

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Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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