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NY Gov. Hochul says Omicron sub-variant not yet a cause for concern

The outside of the New York state COVID-19 vaccination site at Crossgates Mall in Guilderland is adorned with a "Vaccinate New York" banner as well as the flags of the United States and New York state.
Jim Levulis
The New York state COVID-19 vaccination site at Crossgates Mall in Guilderland.

Governor Kathy Hochul says the COVID-19 Omicron sub-variant BA.2 is showing up in testing for the virus in New York. But she says so far, it is not spreading as fast as it has in Europe and the United Kingdom.

Hochul says she’s “not sounding any alarms” about the so far slow-growing presence of the Omicron sub-variant, and is not at this time ordering new masking or any other safety regulations. But she says she’s not prematurely shutting down the state’s vaccination and testing site, and is staying prepared for another potential surge.

“We’ve learned a lot, we know how to handle this,” Hochul said. “We are not in an alarmist mode, we are not panicking over this, we are just watching the numbers and want to make sure everyone knows what we know at the same time.”

Hochul says the state’s infection rate remains at around 2%, far lower than at earlier points during the pandemic, and that hospitals across the state have enough available beds.

She says the biggest step New Yorkers can take to protect themselves and lessen the chance of further spreading the virus is to get a booster shot. Many have not done so, including many over the age of 65 who are considered among the most vulnerable to the virus. She says parents need to get their children vaccinated. Just 35% of 5 to 11-year-olds have completed their vaccines.

The state’s health commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett, says New York’s rate of infection may be undercounted, because many use home administered tests and do not report the results to health authorities.

“We no longer are capturing all the people who test positive,” said Bassett. “But when the laboratory confirmed tests begin to go up, we pay attention to it.”

She says she can’t “promise” that there won’t be another spike.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.