Five new cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 have been detected among New York State residents, including four in New York City, Governor Kathy Hochul announced late Thursday, Dec. 2.
The new cases came after the new strain showed up in a Minnesota resident who recently traveled to the Big Apple contracted the virus of the new strain.
“We still don’t have specific information on how the vaccines are holding up or the boosters are holding up to this variant, but it is real, we said it’d be coming here shortly,” said Hochul at a joint briefing with Mayor Bill de Blasio at City Hall. “In terms of the information we received, literally there are five cases identified today in the state of New York.”
Two cases were found in Queens, one in Brooklyn and another in one of the Five Boroughs.
One case on Long Island’s Suffolk County was a 67-year-old woman who returned from South Africa on Nov. 25, where the new strain was first reported.
She at first tested negative but she reported having a headache and a cough and on Nov. 30 was tested again and had a positive result, according to Hochul.
The Long Islander had at least one dose of one of the vaccines and experienced mild symptoms, according to the governor.
The first case tied to New York City revealed earlier Thursday was the Midwestern visitor who attended a multi-day, sold-out anime convention at the Javits Center, but also only had mild symptoms and was vaccinated.
But the new cases make clear that there is community spread of the Omicron variant in the Big Apple and New Yorkers should expect to see more infections, said Mayor de Blasio.
“We know we now have cases here in New York City,” hizzoner said. “We have to assume that means there’s community spread, we have to assume that means we’re going to see a lot more cases.”
New York City Health Commissioner, Dr. Dave Chokshi echoed the sentiment, explaining that the virus is spreading among New Yorkers even if they haven’t traveled abroad.
“This is not just due to two people who are traveling to southern Africa or to other parts of the world, where Omicron has already been identified,” Chokshi said.
But Hochul noted that the city and state are in “a far better place” than when COVID first hit in the spring of 2020, as there are now multiple vaccines and testing easily available.
“The people are informed, there’s not a panic, we’re not trying to instill that, we’re just trying to let people know we’ve got this, have confidence in what we’re able to do because it’s a different world right now,” she said. “It is still a public health crisis, but does not have to be a crisis that leads to the shutdown.”
Hochul joined de Blasio in City Hall for the briefing, showing a stark shift from her predecessor ex-Governor Andrew Cuomo, who routinely circumvented city government for COVID-related announcements and at times undercut policies set by the mayor.
“I want to make sure everyone understands this is about unity,” the governor said. “There’s a reason we’re here together to signal that this is a challenge that we’re going to tackle together and ensure that everyone knows we have [to be] focused on transparency, which means we will provide information as we get it, as well as a coordinated response from the city in the state to deal with whatever lies ahead.”