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'It's Coming': NY Gov. Declares State of Emergency Over New Omicron Variant

Image credit: Adobe Stock
Image credit: Adobe Stock

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) has declared a state of emergency over the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

And President Biden announced a restriction on travel from South Africa and seven other countries in the region beginning Monday.

Gov. Hochul's order aims to give officials more time to acquire critical supplies for combating the pandemic. It will also allow the state Department of Health to limit non-essential, non-urgent procedures for hospitals and healthcare systems with limited capacity. 

Even though the Omicron variant has not been identified in New York state, Gov. Hochul said preparations were needed due to "warning signs" of a potential spike in cases this winter. 

"We've taken extraordinary action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and combat this pandemic," Hochul said in a statement. "While the new Omicron variant has yet to be detected in New York State, it's coming."

Hochul added, "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."

There are fears that the new variant could be even more contagious than the current COVID-19 variant and might bypass the effectiveness of vaccines.

The WHO's Europe director, Dr. Hans Kluge, warned that without urgent measures taken, the continent could see another 700,000 deaths by the spring.

The emergency protocols begin on Dec. 3 and will be reassessed on Jan. 15.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Omicron variant has been found throughout South Africa.

"This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning," the WHO said. "Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs (variants of concern). The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa."

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