‘People underestimate the power of omicrons’ – BoilingNews

NEW YORK – As New York faces clashing Christmas seasons with coronavirus waves of delta and omicron strains, Gov. Kathy Hochul intensified Thursday’s urgent rhetoric about the threat, warning that “people are underestimating the power of omicrons.”

“This is a health crisis and people are going to die,” Hochul told a news conference in Albany, describing a potentially dangerous winter and urging New Yorkers to abide by a mask mandate she ordered last Friday. “Please put on the mask.”

The nimble omicron variant, first discovered in New York two weeks ago, appears to be spreading through communities at an alarming rate, often escaping immunity from infections and vaccinations. Its prevalence in South Africa and London, where it now appears to be the dominant tribe, has been expressed in an “I” -like form in disturbing graphs.

Only 59 omicron cases had been confirmed nationwide as of Thursday, according to Hochul’s office, but the true measure of its progress is believed to be far greater.

A small proportion of cases are sequenced by laboratories to determine their mutations, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated on Wednesday that 13% of cases in New York and New Jersey could be attributed to omicron. Hochul said the number of COVID admissions nationwide had increased by 70% since Thanksgiving.

As the omicron variant spreads, COVID measurements begin to rise rapidly across New York.

The seven-day average positivity rate in the five boroughs jumped from 2.9 percent Monday to 3.5 percent Wednesday.

“We’ve never seen this before in #NYC,” tweeted Dr. Jay Varma, professor at Cornell and Mayor de Blasio’s former senior public health adviser.

In a heartburn-inducing echo of past stretches of the pandemic, long lines ran outside test sites across New York City on Thursday. The pharmacies ran out of home test kits. And New Yorkers were worried that the virus would affect vacation plans.

Early research has shown that the highly mutated strain, which was first discovered in southern Africa in late November, leads to milder infections than the delta variant. But it is the rate at which omicron is multiplying that has rattled the health authorities.

Dr. Mary Bassett, the state’s health commissioner, warned that although omicron seems less virulent, its tendency to exponential spread can, on average, still create a “large number” of serious cases in New York.

State hospitals, stretched out by a declining delta wave, appear ill-equipped to handle omicron’s relentless replication, increasing efforts for Hochul and health officials across the state.

“I have been primarily focused on hospital bed capacity from the beginning, even before this got bad,” said Hochul, a Democrat. “We will find ways to get more health professionals to supplement. There is no shortage of beds. It is people who need to staff the beds.”

She urged New Yorkers to be tested frequently and receive their shots, including booster injections, which she said could soon be folded into the definition of full vaccination. “Prepare for it,” she said.

But she added that it is crucial for New Yorkers to wear face clothing given the growing scourge of breakthrough cases, and she expressed frustration over the opposition in the state. Several Republican-led counties have refused to enforce her mask mandate despite high case percentages.

“Any state mandate of this type should come with similar state-run oversight and resources from the state government, not pushed down to the counties,” David LeFeber, a Republican who chairs the Livingston County Board of Supervisors, said in a statement on Monday.

Livingston County would not enforce the mandate, LeFeber said. The county’s test positivity rate over the past week was 9.1% on Thursday, according to government data, while the state-wide rate was 4.8%.

Hochul has said she issued the Indoor Mask Directive, which imposed fines on companies that break the rule, as an alternative to shutdowns that would hurt the economy.

Her most recent dismal assessment came more than a year after vaccinations began in New York State and 21 months after the coronavirus pandemic began. Once again, New York – an early epicenter – appeared in the crosshairs.

“That winter wave is in full force and I think it will get even stronger and more virulent,” Hochul said. “We’re going for a tough ride this winter season.”


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