New York has a new State of Emergency in the COVID pandemic with the emergence of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Friday, November 26, Governor Kathy Hochul acknowledged the discovery of the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.529, also known as the Omicron variant and declared New York in a State of Emergency.

Photo: Bob Joseph/WNBF News (file)
Photo: Bob Joseph/WNBF News (file)
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In a statement Friday Governor Hochul said, "The Department of Health's Wadsworth Center Laboratory will continue to actively monitor COVID-19 virus samples selected from throughout New York State to compare sequences and identify circulating and new variants. While we have not yet identified any Omicron cases, we are not surprised that new variants are emerging and may likely end up in New York."

Under the declaration, New York's Health Department is able to limit nonessential and non-urgent care in hospitals to try to protect the ability of those facilities to accept the sickest patients. Prior to the detection of the Omicron variant, hospitals and staff have been stressed by an early winter spike in cases driven by the highly contagious Delta variant.

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At this time there is a lot that is not known about the Omicron variant including if it is more easily spread or how seriously ill it can make those infected. Scientists are also trying to determine if the numerous mutations to the protein spikes on the coronavirus will impact how effective the current COVID-19 vaccines are.

Photo: Ernesto Ryan/Getty Images
Photo: Ernesto Ryan/Getty Images
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Governor Hochul says, "I want to remind New Yorkers to continue taking the precautionary steps we know reduce the spread of this deadly virus: wear a mask in indoor public places, use proper hand hygiene, get tested, and stay home when sick. The vaccine also remains one of our greatest weapons in fighting the pandemic, and this news further emphasizes the need for each of us to get vaccinated and get the booster if you're fully vaccinated."

President Joe Biden, speaking from Nantucket where he is spending the Thanksgiving holiday with his family urged everyone who vaccinated and eligible for the booster to get that shot as soon as possible.

The President has also placed a ban on travel to and from South Africa and seven other countries in that region where the Omicron variant was detected. U.S. citizens, however, are being allowed to return home from that region.

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Vaccinations for COVID-19 began being administered in the U.S. on Dec. 14, 2020. The quick rollout came a little more than a year after the virus was first identified in November 2019. The impressive speed with which vaccines were developed has also left a lot of people with a lot of questions. The questions range from the practical—how will I get vaccinated?—to the scientific—how do these vaccines even work?

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