New York’s Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul did not want to be outdone regarding the newly reported COVID-19 Omicron variant. She acted Friday to declare a state of emergency that will remain in place until January 15.
The declaration intends to increase hospital capacity in New York if the new variant and coming winter weather increase cases requiring in-patient treatment.
The order will give the state Department of Health the power to use its “surge and flex” process. That system prohibits non-urgent hospital procedures in hospitals operating at less than 10 percent staffed bed capacity. The order takes effect on December 3.
Hochul issued a press statement saying that her office has previously taken “extraordinary action” to combat COVID-19 and stop the spread of the virus during the pandemic. She went on to say that the state continues to “see warning signs” of infection spikes as winter approaches. While she admitted that there have been no detected Omicron variant infections in New York, she said they “are coming.”
She said that her declaration is coming in preparation for the winter months and the urgent steps to expand hospital capacity are essential. Hochul added that the vaccine remains “one of our greatest weapons” against the pandemic and urged already vaccinated New Yorkers to get a booster shot.
Joe Biden also announced on Friday stating that he would be imposing travel restrictions against travelers from eight African nations beginning Monday to stop the spread of the Omicron variant to the United States. So far, the variant has been found to have infected people in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi.
The World Health Organization said last week that the Omicron variant exhibits a “large number of mutations” and that some of them are “concerning.”
On Monday, Biden made a press appearance and said that the new variant is “cause for concern,” but not “cause for panic.” He emphasized the COVID vaccines as the primary weapon in the fight to end the pandemic.