State of emergency will keep hospital beds open and help officials gather supplies, following omicron discovery

Photos courtesy of the Governor’s Office

Following an emergency declaration by the governor, the New York State Department of Health will be allowed to limit non-essential procedures in hospitals through January 15, 2022.

The state of emergency, declared in an executive order signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul on November 26 — the same days scientists announced the omicron variant of COVID-19 — cites “severe understaffing in hospitals and other healthcare facilities” and “the ability to provide critical care and to adequately serve vulnerable populations” as reasons for the decision.

The new protocols will begin this Friday, December 3, and will be re-assessed based on the latest COVID-19 data on January 15. The executive order will also enable state officials to quickly acquire any critical supplies as officials monitor the omicron variant of COVID-19, discovered late last week.

“While the new omicron variant has yet to be detected in New York state, it’s coming,” Hochul said. 

On November 26, the World Health Organization classified a new variant, B.1.1.529, as a “variant of concern” and has named it omicron. No cases of this variant have been identified in the U.S. to date. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is following the details of this new variant, first reported to the WHO by doctors in South Africa.

Health officials and researchers have said the omicron variant of COVID-19 contains mutations that could help it evade immune-response systems, making it highly transmissible. 

“We are watching this very closely out of South Africa, watching to see whether or not there is a case here in New York,” Gov. Hochul said Monday. “I said on Friday I fully expected to arrive. We have notification that it has arrived in Ontario, which is literally across the bridge from where I live.

“We have to deal with the realities of a highly transmissible, we believe, variant, Omicron variant. We are fully monitoring this. We have ways to defend against this. We are not defenseless like we were one year ago and we all know exactly what has to happen. We know that it’s an issue that we’re grappling with right now. 

“The world is paying attention to this, so we’re monitoring it globally. We’re monitoring it here in New York state.”

Dr. Kirsten St. George, the director of virology at the Wadsworth Laboratory, joins Gov. Hochul at a press conference on Monday, November 29, 29021.

Mask protocols in health care and P-12 school settings, correctional facilities and detentions centers, public transportation and at transportation hubs, and implementation of the HERO Act which requires all employers to implement workplace safety plans in response to COVID-19, are all ways in which the Hochul Administration is working to stop the spread of the Coronavirus.

“We’ve taken extraordinary action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and combat this pandemic. However, 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.

This State of Emergency allows Hochul and state officials to purchase supplies ahead of time and to keep hospital beds open. 

“In preparation, I am announcing urgent steps today to expand hospital capacity and help ensure our hospital systems can tackle any challenges posed by the pandemic as we head into the winter months,” said Hochul. 

The new protocols will be re-assessed based on the latest COVID-19 data on January 15, 2022. 

The Hochul Administration continues to focus on increasing vaccination rates amongst New Yorkers, focusing on school-aged children ages 5 – 17 to receive the FDA-approved Pfizer vaccine.

The governor and the Department of Health are using incentive programs, combating vaccine misinformation campaigns, increasing vaccine awareness, deploying pop-up vaccines in targeted low-vaccination areas, and implementing vaccine requirements for health care workers.