New York Declares State of Emergency to Combat Omicron Variant

New York’s governor declared a state of emergency to prepare for a possible Covid-19 surge from the new Omicron variant that is spreading around the globe. 

The precautionary measure announced Friday is intended to help hospitals in the state prepare for a potential winter wave caused by the new variant, which the World Health Organization has said might be more transmissible and pose a greater risk of illness than existing strains of the coronavirus. New York is the first state to declare a state of emergency in response to the Omicron variant,  The Wall Street Journal reported.

First detected in South Africa, Omicron hasn’t been found anywhere in the U.S.

“It’s coming,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said of the new strain, which has made its way to the U.K., Belgium and other countries.

Speaking Saturday on the “Today” show, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said all precautions should be taken until more is known about Omicron.

“It likely will be more transmissible,” he said. “We don’t know that yet, but you have to be careful and assume that’s the case.”

Dr. Fauci said he wouldn’t be surprised if the variant is already in the U.S.

Starting Monday, the U.S. will block travel for most travelers from South Africa and seven neighboring countries to try to control the spread of the disease. The ban doesn’t apply to U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.

New York’s executive order means hospitals with less than 10% bed capacity, or others designated by the state as being at risk, will be able to turn away patients seeking nonurgent or nonessential health procedures to ensure there are enough resources to treat Covid-19 cases.

The order, which is in place until at least Jan. 15, also allows the state to more quickly access critical supplies.

The WHO declared Omicron a “variant of concern” on Friday, saying it carries higher risks than other strains of the virus.

As of Friday, there have been 47.9 million confirmed Covid-19 cases in the U.S. and about 774,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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