NY continues to monitor Omicron variant as US travel ban takes effect – Telemundo New York (47)

What you should know

  • Non-urgent surgeries will once again be suspended in parts of New York due to decreased capacity at hospitals.
  • Governor Kathy Hochul noted that the state is closely watching a possible peak of the delta variant during the winter.
  • As of Monday afternoon, no cases have been detected in New York of the new Omicron variant.

Some New York hospitals will have to suspend elective surgeries starting Friday due to concerns about hospital capacity following a surge in cases of the delta variant, Governor Kathy Hochul said Monday.

The governor pointed out that between 32 and 36 hospitals in upstate New York, which have a bed capacity of less than 10%, will have to suspend non-urgent surgeries. State health officials will reevaluate those specific hospitals in mid-January.

As of Monday, hospitals in upstate New York City, Long Island and the Mid-Hudson region continue to have the largest volumes of beds available, Hochul added.

Amid efforts to contain the long-standing delta variant, a new concern emerged after reporting on a new Omicron variant last week over the Thanksgiving holiday. A fact that led many counties to review travel bans.

Flights from South Africa and seven other southern African countries to John F. Kennedy International Airport were packed with US citizens on Monday. This is because on Monday the measure to ban travel from these countries to the nation seeks to stop the spread of the new variant of COVID-19.

While not much is known about the Omicron variant, New York City and state leaders say they are “closely monitoring” the variant and say no cases have been detected in New York or the rest of the United States. Until now.

It’s not yet clear how great the danger Ómicron poses to New Yorkers, vaccinated or not, but Gov. Kathy Hochul encouraged everyone to double down on precautionary measures: wear masks, wash hands and get vaccinated.

“The vaccine also remains one of our best weapons in the fight against the pandemic, and this news further emphasizes the need for each of us to be vaccinated and boosted if fully vaccinated,” said Hochul.

On the other hand, the effort to keep the vaccination momentum at the forefront as the primary tool against each and every variant threat was recalled by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, along with Mayor-elect Eric Adams during a press conference Monday. During the conference, the city’s Health Commissioner strongly recommended the use of masks.

Dr. Dave Chokshi noted that a new advisory “strongly” recommends that New Yorkers wear face masks in all closed public settings, regardless of vaccination status and prior COVID infection. The commissioner emphasized that the first data does not answer all the questions about the transmissibility and severity of Ómicron; they are likely to emerge in the coming weeks.

The Omicron variant has not been detected in New York City, where the delta remains the most worrisome variant and constitutes the overwhelming majority of positive cases. But if the new variant looks anything like delta, the strain that quickly became dominant due to its transmissibility, unvaccinated people are still the biggest concern.

The CDC says that unvaccinated people are more likely to become infected and therefore transmit the virus. There have been cases of progressive infections in fully vaccinated people, but it is less frequent and they are less likely to develop serious diseases.

The health agency also recommends wearing a mask when in closed public places. New York State has a number of indoor mask policies amid the rising delta, however fully vaccinated people should not wear masks when reunited with loved ones at home or in other private settings.

Meanwhile, the governor also declared a State of Emergency ahead of potential COVID-19 spikes due to the Delta and Omicron variants. The measure, which will take effect on December 3, will allow the state to acquire supplies to combat the pandemic, increase hospital capacity and combat possible staff shortages. It would also allow the state Department of Health to limit non-essential and non-urgent procedures in hospitals.

The new variant, which has around 50 mutations, was first identified by South African health officials earlier this week and was quickly labeled as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization. On Friday, the WHO named the variant Omicron, warning that preliminary data suggested it had a greater potential to evade immunity than previous variants.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the US National Institutes of Health, emphasized that there is no data yet to suggest that the new variant causes more serious illness than previous COVID-19 variants.

“I think it’s more contagious, when you look at how quickly it spread through various districts in South Africa,” Collins said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”


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