New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has declared a state of emergency ahead of potential COVID-19 spikes this winter due to the already-circulating Delta and newly-identified Omicron variants of coronavirus.
The declaration, which goes into effect on Dec. 3, will allow the state to acquire pandemic-fighting supplies, increase hospital capacity and fight potential staffing shortages. It would also allow the state Health Department to limit non-essential and non-urgent procedures at hospitals.
“We continue to see warning signs of spikes this upcoming winter, and while the new Omicron variant has yet to be detected in New York State, it’s coming,” Hochul said.
On Friday, the WHO named the variant omicron and warned that preliminary data suggested it had greater potential to evade immunity than previous variants. The strain, which sports about 50 mutations, was first identified in South Africa earlier this week and was quickly labeled a variant of concern by the WHO
Already, the variant has sparked travel bans from southern Africa to many parts of Europe. The United States is also implementing its own ban, which won’t be enforced until Monday.
It’s still unclear exactly how great a danger Omicron poses to New Yorkers — vaccinated or not — but Hochul again encouraged everyone to double down on precautionary measures.
“I want to remind New Yorkers to continue taking the precautionary steps we know reduce the spread of this deadly virus: wear a mask in indoor public places, use proper hand hygiene, get tested, and stay home when sick, she said. “The vaccine also remains one of our greatest weapons in fighting the pandemic, and this news further emphasizes the need for each of us to get vaccinated and get the booster if you’re fully vaccinated”