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Gov. Hochul says COVID-19 Omicron sub-variant not yet a cause for concern

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

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said the COVID-19 Omicron sub-variant BA.2 is showing up in testing in New York. But she said, 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 sub-variant, 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 years old 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.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment and interviews newsmakers. Karen previously worked for WINS Radio, New York, and has written for numerous publications, including Adirondack Life and the Albany newsweekly Metroland.