Governor Kathy Hochul held a press conference Jan. 7 addressing the recent COVID-19 surge caused by the Omicron variant, reiterating the precautionary measures she has put in place to protect New York residents as well as updating the public on COVID related developments.
“Before the holidays, we predicted a spike in cases and we got that spike in cases,” Hochul said. “Every day that we can flatten that, is going to be a good day.”
Moving on to statewide hospitalization capacity numbers, Hochul expresses concern, and suggested that these numbers were usually a “lagging indicator” with hospitalization numbers beginning to trend upward, “following the upward trajectory of cases”. With this lag, Hochul said that eventually hospitalizations should see a plateau in late January or early February as COVID experts predict the Omicron variant’s peak by then.
Also at the press conference was Dr. Mary Bassett, acting commissioner for the New York State department of health, who provided information regarding increased pediatric hospitalizations following the holidays and announced that the NYC Health Department would be releasing a comprehensive report regarding pediatric hospitalization cases that will be available to the public soon.
With children who are too young and ineligible for the COVID vaccine just yet, Bassett indicated that infection has gone up nearly eight-fold, and in older teens 12 to 18 infection rates have gone up nearly 10 fold. This is far faster and higher than the rate among adults which has gone up roughly two-fold. The total number of new cases in New York on Friday was 82,094.
“Pediatric cases have shown the same level of escalation that we’ve seen with Omicron in general,” said Bassett. “But what is making us concerned is that the rate of increase among children is going up faster than it is among adults.”
Although the numbers of children affected with COVID remains comparatively low compared to adults, though between Dec. 26-Jan.1 571 children testing positive and 70% of these children present COVID symptoms.
“All public and charter schools have tests,” said Hochul. “With more coming on the way.”
Due to this worrisome surge in positive cases, Governor Hochul announced there to be an increased number of cases within nursing homes as well, and that new mandatory mask mandates would be required for visitors, as well as a negative COVID test within 24 hours before their visit.
“I made a phone call to the head of CMS (the head of Medicare) the other day,” said Hochul. “They put in a requirement that there could be no restrictions whatsoever on visitors. I have explained from our point of view of the state of New York we understand that people need to see visitors. But the last thing we want to do is create a situation where visitors are coming in and now getting people they love sick from the pandemic.”
As the pandemic continues to “spread like wildfire” across the nation according to Governor Hochul, the hope is that the Omicron variant will reach its peak in the coming months. But in the interim, Hochul announced that MTA stations will open more testing sites bringing the total to 11 MTA sites.
“This is still a pandemic,” Hochul said. “But use our Subways. You can even get tested there!”