NEW Governor Hochul warns of omicron subvariants leading to an increase in infections

Kathy Hochul, Governor of New York, will speak at a news conference in New York on Tuesday, September 21, 2021.

Mark Kauzlarich | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Two mutated strains of the highly transmissible omicron variant of Covid-19 are the main culprits behind a “rising tide” of infections in New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Wednesday.

“We identified two sub-variants of omicron that drive the current rise in cases,” Hochul said during a news conference in Syracuse.

“We take this very seriously,” the Democratic governor said. “You do not know, every variant that comes will be worse than the last?”

But Hochul stressed that state health experts have seen no evidence that the new strains are more serious than others, and so far they do not expect a repeat of the massive, omicron-driven rise in cases last winter.

“We are not panicking about this, we are not changing, but we also want to make sure we are wise about this,” she said.

New York data currently shows 40 Covid cases per year. 100,000 people, which Hochul said is a more informative measure to follow than the overall infection rate. The governor noted that although this figure was “slightly lower” in recent weeks, the current level is significantly below the winter peak of 461 cases per year. 100,000 people.

“We’re far from that peak, but I do not even want to get close to that peak,” she said.

Across the United States, the cases are nowhere near the peak of the pandemic of about 808,000 new cases a day, reported in mid-January. New infections currently average about 35,000 a day, according to a CNBC analysis of data collected by Johns Hopkins University. Although it is a fraction of the peak, cases have started to rise nationwide in recent weeks and some areas of the country are experiencing local increases.

Across the country, there are about 1,400 people hospitalized with Covid, Hochul said. Near the height of the pandemic, 12,000 people in New York were hospitalized with the virus, she said.

The number of hospital admissions, which has been a key data point in the state’s response to the health crisis, is even more crucial to monitor, as the prevalence of home tests for Covid obscures overall test numbers, the governor said.

She also said that about half of the cases of people hospitalized with Covid are people who were hospitalized for other reasons and then tested positive when they arrived.

On the plus side, warming weather should play a role in slowing the spread of infections, Hochul said, because more people want to socialize outdoors instead of in enclosed spaces.

New York will also maintain its mask requirements for public transportation and other similar options, at least for the time being. “Let’s just be smart about it,” Hochul said.

This decision comes two days after a federal judge’s ruling cracked down on the public transportation mask mandates issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Biden administration has said it will appeal this decision if the CDC considers a mask mandate to be a public health necessity.

Philadelphia on Monday became the first major city in the United States to reinstate its Covid-19 mask mandate for indoor activities, as the highly contagious omicron BA.2 subvariant drives new Covid cases higher across the United States

Hochul said, if it were not for the new sub-variants, “I suppose we would have been able to say goodbye to masks in all settings. But we must get there. We will get there.”

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