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Lonely? Get in Line. A Covid Test Line.

Deni Bonet was considering leaving New York. “Being in the arts, it’s been really tough,” said Ms. Bonet, an electric violinist and singer-songwriter, who had watched many friends and colleagues move out of the city over the past two years. “I needed a New York moment to remember why I live here.”

She got it in an unlikely place: a two-hour-long Covid testing line.

Last month, she lined up to get a P.C.R. test in Washington Heights, the Manhattan neighborhood where she lives. She had performed at several holiday concerts and had rehearsed with a musician who had tested positive, so she wanted to make sure she was in the clear.

Ms. Bonet started talking to the man in front of her, who had walked there from the Bronx. “He worked for the D.M.V., and he wanted to make sure he didn’t infect anybody when he went back to work after the holidays,” she said. “I can’t remember why he said he needed a car, but I told him I had one.” She ended up giving him her phone number, in case he ever needed a ride. “I never heard from him, but I hope I will.”

An older couple who knew the history of the Art Deco buildings on the street started telling Ms. Bonet and her new friend, the D.M.V. worker, about them, as if they were on a walking tour. “I never look at these buildings when I’m walking around, but in line that was all there was to do,” Ms. Bonet said. A young woman shared recommendations for books and television shows with anyone who was interested.

The temperature was in the low 30s, and the group took turns holding one another’s place in line while people would leave to grab a slice or a cup of coffee. “My nose was running so I got napkins, and I handed them out,” Ms. Bonet said.

After she had been swabbed and left the testing site, she realized what could have been a terrible experience had made her feel joyful. “There is this great spirit that says we are going to get through this together,” she said. “It made me happy to see people being kind to each other. That’s all we can do right now.”

New Yorkers have become accustomed to waiting in the cold to get Covid tests, sometimes for hours. But some, instead of looking into their phones, are striking up conversations, taking the opportunity to interact and network in a city that has stayed in a mostly cautious and protective mode for almost two years.

In late 2020, when Senti Sojwal, who works in digital communications, was getting a test in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, she ran into a romantic interest. “It turned into a date where we waited in the freezing cold together for six and a half hours,” she said. “It was sort of fun keeping each other warm. We kept dating for a couple of months after that.”

One year later, she went to get tested in Crown Heights. A childhood friend whom she hadn’t seen in a decade was in the same line. They started chatting and realized they both lived in the neighborhood. “I hadn’t seen this person since I was a kid,” she said. “We’re going to meet up for a coffee or drink soon.”

Ethan Lowens, a defense attorney who works and lives in Queens, said Covid testing lines had become an extension of the office since his employer has mandated weekly testing. Most of his officemates go to a van parked right outside Queens Borough Hall, and they often do the errand together. “It’s like the 2022 version of a cigarette break,” he said. “Someone will go around and say, ‘Hey, I need to go get a Covid test. Anyone want to come?’”

He said the procedure had helped him build relationships and even stay productive … while standing in line. On a new co-worker’s second day, for example, the group took her along for the test. “She asked all the basic questions like, who do you call when you can’t log into your email, or who do you email about your MetroCard?” he recalled. “It was those onboarding questions you want to ask a peer, not a supervisor.”

After his wife tested positive last month, Jason Faust, an actor in Washington Heights, stood in a line near his home for a test and was prepared to have a horrible day. “The line was, without exaggeration, four hours long,” he said. “And this was that first really cold day we had in a while.”

But he befriended a man in front of him who kept cracking jokes, the last one being — once the man had been swabbed — that he had used up the last test. Mr. Faust and the joke maker also chatted with the family behind them, who kept sending their daughter into their double-parked van to get warm. They also helped two women fill out the registration forms using a QR code.

Tensions boiled over when someone in their group was accused of cutting the line. The makeshift pod immediately went into defensive mode. “I said to this guy, ‘We all know each other, we are old friends,’” Mr. Faust said. Someone started singing the lyrics “We are a family” from “Dreamgirls,” the Broadway show, he said. “The moment was kind of like a musical.”

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Regionales

‘Devastated’: Crowds Throng Funeral Service for 15 Bronx Fire Victims

A line of black hearses began pulling up outside the doors of the Islamic Cultural Center in the Bronx just after 10 a.m. on Sunday. They maneuvered past throngs of distraught mourners who had flocked to the mosque to say a final goodbye to friends, children, parents and cousins killed in a fire that took the lives of 17 members of a close-knit Gambian community.

Indoors, women consoled each other in a second-floor prayer space as the men gathered downstairs. Outside, two tents were filled with families watching the funeral service on a livestream.

Aminata Sillah, 42, had arrived early. She laid a blue prayer rug on the ground in the frigid morning air, tugging anxiously at her boots.

Ms. Sillah’s aunt, Fatoumata Drammeh, was among those who died on Jan. 9 as acrid smoke filled the apartment building on East 181st Street, suffocating people as they tried to flee the 19-story complex. Ms. Drammeh’s three children also died and were among the 15 people being honored during Sunday’s communal funeral service.

“I’m devastated,” Ms. Sillah said. “It’s been a restless week.”

An imam urged people to clear a path as the coffins, draped in black velvet cloth and held aloft by more than two dozen men, were carried inside the mosque.

“It’s just painful,” Haji Dukuray, 60, said before falling silent as a tiny, child-size coffin was placed near where he sat in the front row on a green prayer rug.

“All this innocence, these young kids,” Mr. Dukuray said. “They have no business being here.”

Yahya Sankara, 33, who lost his sister and two nephews, sighed loudly as his eyes began to tear up.

“My heart is done,” Mr. Sankara said. “I have nothing to say.”

New York’s new mayor, Eric Adams; the state’s attorney general, Letitia James; and Senator Chuck Schumer were among the elected leaders who attended the packed funeral service.

The fire, ignited by a space heater, was the city’s deadliest blaze in decades.

The blaze began just before 11 a.m. on a similarly chilly Sunday morning a week ago. Eight children were among the dead.

As the service started, the imam, Sankung Jeitteh, said he was struggling to control his emotions as he listed the names of families — Dukuray, Drammeh, Jambang, Konteh, Tunkara, Toure — decimated by the blaze.

“When the Lord asks for something, we have no choice but to agree,” he said, adding, “I’m trying to control myself.”

Family members started to quietly sob.

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Regionales

New York Governor Offers Hopeful Sign as Daily Cases Fall by 47%

Credit…Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general, warned on Sunday that the Omicron surge of coronavirus cases had not yet peaked nationally, saying that the next few weeks would be very difficult in many parts of the country as hospitalizations and deaths rise.

In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Dr. Murthy noted the “good news” of the plateaus and drops in known cases in the Northeast, especially in New York City and New Jersey.

But “the challenge is that the entire country is not moving at the same pace,” he said, adding “we shouldn’t expect a national peak in the coming days.”

“The next few weeks will be tough,” he said.

The highly contagious Omicron variant has fueled an explosive surge of known cases, with an average of more than 800,000 new cases a day reported on Saturday, according to a New York Times database.

Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, also expressed concerns that the next several weeks would overwhelm hospitals and staff. “Right now we’re at about 150,000 people in the hospital with Covid,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “That’s more than we’ve ever had. I expect those numbers to get substantially higher.”

In addition, Omicron has brought into sharp relief the longstanding lack of adequate testing supplies, with consumers now depleting pharmacies of costly rapid tests — a boxed set of two tests ranges from $14 to $24 — and creating long lines at testing sites.

The federal government has promised to distribute one billion rapid at-home coronavirus tests to Americans, limiting each household to request four free tests. And new federal rules require private insurers to cover up to eight at-home tests per member a month.

But with the test orders and reimbursement processes hampered by delays, Americans will likely not have tests in hand for weeks, which may be too late in some places where demand is high as infections spread.

“We’ve ordered too few testing kits, so our testing capacity has continued to lag behind each wave,” Tom Bossert, the homeland security adviser to President Trump, said on ABC’s “This Week.” “It’s too little and too late, but noteworthy for the next wave.”

While many people infected with Omicron have had no or mild symptoms, others — especially those who were not vaccinated and those with chronic conditions — suffered more serious illnesses that were already overwhelming hospitals in some states late last year.

Dr. Murthy disagreed with the Supreme Court’s decision last week that rejected President Biden’s vaccine-or-testing mandate for large employers that would have applied to more than 80 million workers.

“Well, the news about the workplace requirement being blocked was very disappointing,” Dr. Murthy said. “It was a setback for public health. Because what these requirements ultimately are helpful for is not just protecting the community at large; but making our workplaces safer for workers as well as for customers.”

Nearly 63 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, but only 38 percent of those have received a booster shot, which some have argued should be the new definition of full vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not changed the definition of full vaccination, but said recently it considers three doses of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna’s vaccines to be “up-to-date,” as well as Johnson & Johnson’s shots with a second dose, preferably of Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech.

Last week, the C.D.C. finally acknowledged that cloth masks do not offer as much protection as a surgical mask or respirator, which some experts have urged the agency to recommend for the general public.

“Please, please get vaccinated,” Dr. Murthy said on ABC, issuing a reminder that the shots still provide good protection against severe illness. “It’s still not too late.”

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Regionales

Homes That Sold for $520,000 or Less

Each week, our survey of recent residential sales in New York City and the surrounding region focuses on homes that sold around a certain price point, allowing you to compare single-family homes, condos and co-ops in different locales.

The “list price” is the asking price when the property came on the market with the most recent broker. The time on the market is measured from the most recent listing to the closing date of the sale.

BROOKLYN | 1 BEDROOM, 1 BATH

This 700-square-foot postwar co-op has hardwood floors, a southern exposure and an open kitchen with a breakfast bar in a non-doorman elevator building with a live-in superintendent.

20 weeks on the market

$375,000 list price

1% below list price

Costs $643 a month in maintenance

Listing broker Keller Williams


Connecticut | 2 bedrooms, 3 baths

This 45-year-old, 2,026-square-foot, semidetached condo has an open floor plan, a kitchen with granite counters and island seating and two decks in a complex for those aged 55 and over.

12 weeks on the market

$439,900 list price

Less than 1% above list price

Costs $9,543 a year in taxes; $463 a month in common charges

A 577-square-foot prewar condo with hardwood floors, an eat-in kitchen with granite counters, a bedroom with French doors and a windowed walk-in closet in a non-doorman walk-up building.

31 weeks on the market

$435,000 list price

6% below list price

Costs $5,168 a year in taxes; $405 a month in common charges

Listing broker Triplemint


Long Island | 2 bedrooms, 2½ baths

This 36-year-old, 1,305-square-foot, townhouse-style condo has a living room with a stone fireplace, two walk-in closets and two decks in a complex with a pool and tennis courts.

17 weeks on the market

$499,000 list price

4% above list price

Costs $13,209 a year in taxes; $350 a month in common charges

Listing broker Douglas Elliman


Westchester | 1 bedroom, 1 bath

A 32-year-old, 774-square-foot condo, with hardwood floors, a pass-through kitchen that has granite counters, and a washer and dryer in a high-rise doorman building with a gym, indoor pool and pond.

21 weeks on the market

$389,000 list price

6% below list price

Costs $4,911 a year in taxes; $569 a month in common charges

Listing broker Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty


A 350-square-foot prewar co-op, with a bath, hardwood floors, two closets and a kitchen with stainless-steel appliances (but no dishwasher), in an elevator building with a doorman and gym.

14 weeks on the market

$325,000 list price

17% below list price

Costs $840 a month in maintenance

Listing broker Keller Williams

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