More than 70 million over-the-counter COVID-19 tests have been distributed by New York state officials, including nearly 3 million tests to nursing homes and schools since December, Gov. Kathy Hochul's office on Friday said. 

Health officials are relying increasingly on at-home tests after pandemic-related rules, including indoor masking wearing, have eased. 

"At-home COVID-19 testing is now widely available and provides real-time information regarding your COVID-19 status, particularly as we are seeing infections increase," said state Health Commisssioner Dr. Mary Bassett. "People who test positive should isolate and, for those with symptoms, seek medical advice for treatment as soon as possible. We are making all of our prevention tools readily available. In addition to the vaccine and boosters, we have put millions of test kits into the hands of New Yorkers."

COVID-19 cases have increased in some areas of the state, including Central New York, amid the spread of the BA.2 omicron subvariant of COVID-19. The original omicron variant was responsible for the steepest rise in coronavirus cases during the pandemic as a wintertime surge led to a rise in hospitalizations and deaths. 

"As we've seen throughout the pandemic, test kits are a critical tool in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19 and prevent exposure to others," Hochul said. "I am proud to announce that today we have distributed more than 70 million over-the-counter COVID-19 tests to all New Yorkers, and I want to thank our dedicated state workers who are working day and night to fight this virus and keep our communities safe. We will continue to focus our efforts on distributing at-home tests and building up our stockpile so we can bolster our preparedness for the future and keep moving forward safely through this pandemic."