Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday announced the first confirmed cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant in New York state.
So far, the five cases appear unrelated. One case is from Suffolk County with a history of travel to South Africa. The individual was asymptomatic while traveling home and after returning became symptomatic. The other four cases are New York City residents. Two cases are from Queens and one is from Brooklyn. The other case is a person whose borough of residence is still being determined.
The announcement came Thursday during a joint press conference with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“As I’ve said since we first became aware of the emergence of the Omicron variant …, it was only a matter of time before it was detected here in New York state,”Hochul said. “I want all New Yorkers to know that we are prepared for this and will continue to communicate openly with New Yorkers. Thanks to the life-saving tools at our disposal, like vaccines and boosters, we have the tools in our arsenal to fight this pandemic.”
These New York state cases come after Gov. Hochul’s morning announcement, alongside Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett, that the Omicron variant had been detected in a Minnesota resident who spent time in New York City at a recent anime convention at the Javits Center.
The governor and health commissioner urged anyone who attended to get tested for COVID-19. These cases are believed to be unrelated to that convention.
“The most important advice we can give New Yorkers at this time is to get vaccinated, get a booster shot if you are already vaccinated and wear your mask,” Bassett said. “We urge the public not to panic, as we are still learning more about this variant and are prepared to handle it. Labs across New York state, including … the Wadsworth Center, have ramped up sequencing efforts to detect and study the Omicron variant.”
The Wadsworth Center continues to actively monitor COVID-19 virus samples selected throughout the state to compare sequences and identify circulating and new variants, including Omicron. The lab is currently sequencing COVID-19 virus specimens with a capacity up to approximately 100 per day. Specimens are selected at random from throughout the state to provide surveillance across all geographic locations and data analyzed across the entire sequence of the virus. The analyses include assessment for mutations that indicate variants of concern and variants of interest.
Other laboratories in New York State are conducting similar work. These results from Wadsworth and other laboratories are uploaded into public databases, primarily GISAID. From this database, sequence data from all contributors can be downloaded and analyzed for a more complete picture of virus trends across the state and the distribution of variants from these analyses summarized over time. The State has made this data available for all New Yorkers at their COVID-19 Variant Page.