Top New York State officials said Monday that health officials did not anticipate that the Omicron variant of coronavirus known as BA.2 would spur a severe increase in cases in the state.
Parts of the state are experiencing small increases, although the total number of cases remains low, and BA.2, which is similar to the version of Omicron that recently swept into the US and has taken hold in many European countries, now accounts for 42 percent of the state. cases in the state, officials said. But the increase came as “no surprise,” after New York officials recently dropped mask rules and lifted economic restrictions, Drs. Mary Bassett, State Health Commissioner.
“We do not expect to see a steep increase in cases in the state of New York,” said Dr. Bassett during a press conference in Albany with Governor Kathy Hochul – the governor’s first dedicated Covid-19 briefing since Feb. 27 – and stressed that state health officials remained on guard. “We will watch along, so I will not promise you that it will not change.”
Ms. Hochul, a Democrat, repeated her caution. “I just want everyone to know that we have never taken our foot off the gas when it comes to our preparedness to deal with this pandemic,” Ms. Hochul. “We never had a high-five moment and said it’s over. We’re in a new phase.”
Their comments followed closely with President Biden’s top adviser on the pandemic, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, who on Sunday said the nation should prepare for an “increase” in cases, but not an increase. Some scientists are concerned that the United States may not be doing enough to prevent another possible increase.
The outlook for the virus in New York has improved markedly since a winter surge that pushed the average positivity rate to over 23 percent at its known peak in January, leaving more than 12,000 people hospitalized in one day, according to government data.
As of Monday, the average positivity rate was just under 2 percent, and about 900 people remained hospitalized with the virus.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who recently ended the mask mandate in schools and lifted evidence of proof of vaccination for indoor activities, has actually made a return to normalcy a top priority for the city for the city.
Governor Hochul said one of the main focus of government officials was to increase the number of people who got a booster shoot. While New York is among the national leaders in the field of fully vaccinated people, only 56 percent of eligible New Yorkers have received a booster shot, a rate that Ms. Hochul said was lame.
She also urged people to be tested when experiencing symptoms, adding that officials continued to place greater emphasis on therapeutic agents to treat Covid, which may not be as widely known to the public.
With cases and hospitalizations declining across the nation, some states, including New Hampshire and Massachusetts, have moved to close mass test sites, though some government experts have warned it is too early to do so.
Ms. Hochul said Monday that New York, at least for now, did not close test sites or vaccination sites, although demand for sites has fallen recently.
“We must be ready for anything,” said Mrs. Hochul, calling the virus “unpredictable.”