Gov. Hochul says COVID-19 omicron subvariant not yet a cause for concern

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NYS Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett speaks at COVID-19 briefing with Gov. Kathy Hochul (left) at the state's Wadsworth Labs on March 21, 2022.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said the COVID-19 omicron subvariant BA.2 is showing up in testing in New York. But so far, it is not spreading as fast as it has in Europe and the United Kingdom.

Hochul said she’s “not sounding any alarms” about the so far slow-growing presence of the omicron subvariant, and is not at this time, ordering new masking or any other safety regulations. But she said she’s not prematurely shutting down state vaccination and testing sites, 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, are not panicking over this, we are just watching the numbers and want to make sure that everyone knows what we know at the same time.”

Hochul said 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 said 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. And she said 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, said New York’s rate of infection may be undercounted, because many people use at-home tests and do not report the results to health authorities.

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

She said she can’t promise that there won’t be another spike.