May 19, 2022

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What will the omicron variant mean for New York City?

There have been no confirmed cases of the omicron variant in the U.S. For now, Delta is the dominant strain in New York. But at least until officials learn more about omicron, Dr. Dave Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner, is recommending that New Yorkers wear masks indoors at all times.

“We do anticipate detecting omicron in New York in the coming days based on what we know about its global spread,” Chokshi said Monday at a news conference.

“Preliminary evidence suggests that those who’ve had COVID-19 in the past might be more easily reinfected with omicron,” he said. “This underscores our strong recommendation to get vaccinated regardless of if you’ve already had COVID-19.”

He cited the most recently available data, showing that unvaccinated New Yorkers were seven times more likely to be infected than vaccinated residents.

Chokshi also urged people who gathered or traveled over the Thanksgiving holiday to get tested for COVID-19.

As of Monday, the city’s seven-day average COVID-19 infection rate was stable, at 2.34%. The daily average for confirmed cases in the previous seven days was 984, compared with 905 cases in the previous 28 days.

In a statement, Hochul reinforced a message she’s repeated often: “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.”

Hochul on Monday also addressed the possible threat to nursing homes, laying out a plan to continue promoting booster shots.

She said the state’s hospital-bed capacity has declined by 4% since early August, or about 1,580 beds. As part of the executive order declaring a state of emergency, limits are being placed on nonessential scheduled procedures at hospital with limited capacity, beginning Dec. 3.

“My No. 1 concern is hospital capacity,” she said. “Other people who need medical attention should not be denied that because the other beds are filled up with Covid patients.”