New York Gov. Kathy Hochul warned on Wednesday that the state could see the start of another spike in coronavirus cases, this one powered by two new versions of the Omicron variant. Still, Ms Hochul said, it was difficult to predict what shape the current “bump” might take, urging “common sense” safety measures such as home testing.
While new confirmed cases and hospitalizations in January were still well below their peaks, the governor said both statistics were rising statewide, a troubling but not unexpected development with the circulation of the two subvariants, BA.2.12 and BA.2.12. 1. , which made up the vast majority of cases statewide as of last week.
So far, the two subvariants do not appear to cause more serious illness than previous variants, state health officials said last week. But they seem to be spreading faster than BA.2, the dominant version among new US cases, and itself more contagious than any variant that preceded it.
“We are not panicking,” said Ms Hochul, explaining that the known cases were still much lower than at the height of the Omicron wave. Still, she acknowledged that that surge had started with modest increases, just as the state now saw. “We don’t expect that here. But on the other hand, we don’t know,” she added.
On Tuesday, there were an average of more than 6,070 new cases per day statewide, a 69 percent increase over the past two weeks, according to a DailyExpertNews database. The number of hospital admissions had increased by 35 percent over the same period, to an average of more than 1,500 per day.
Ms. Hochul said home testing, which is widely embraced as a convenient and timely alternative to seeking out a clinic or government-run site, could be helpful in enabling people to take precautions from the moment they enter the clinic. first experienced symptoms or knew they were exposed.
But she also noted that the proliferation of home testing kits — including state-owned ones — had contributed to an “information gap” that made it difficult to assess the spread of the virus. Experts believe that new cases are being counted less and less with the rise of home testing.
“We will continue to provide the test kits, which is good,” Ms Hochul said. “But we also know that we don’t have a clear picture of what exactly is going on.”
Hospital admissions are a better indicator, albeit a lagging one. State data shows that hospital admissions are also on the rise, although Ms Hochul warned that only about half of them had been admitted due to Covid symptoms, with the rest being diagnosed with the virus while seeking care for other reasons, such as heart attacks, car accidents or sports injuries. .
Central New York this week hit 62 cases per 100,000 residents, while the rest of the state hovers around 40, according to state data. That’s more than 10 at the beginning of March.
Despite signs that the number of cases is rising, Ms Hochul has refrained from introducing new restrictions. In recent months, New York has removed the requirement to wear masks or show proof of vaccination indoors, and a mask mandate in schools, while New York City has rolled back vaccine requirements in restaurants.
Across the country, Covid security measures have been relaxed by governors and the courts. This week, a federal judge in Florida canceled the federal mask mandate for airlines, trains and buses, though the Biden administration said it would appeal the ruling.
For now, New York will continue to require masks on subways, buses and airports, as well as in homeless shelters, correctional facilities and state-regulated health care facilities.
“Let’s just do it smart,” said Mrs. Hochul. “I think people feel better sitting very close to someone on public transport to know that people are protecting themselves. And again, this is very much in the short term.”