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Hochul says Omicron subvariant not yet a cause for concern

Gov. Kathy Hochul (left) with New York Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett.
Karen DeWitt
New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett (center)speaks during a briefing Monday, March 21, 2022. Watching are Gov. Kathy Hochul (left) and Dr. Kirsten St. George, director of Virology and chief of the Laboratory of Viral Diseases at the state Health Department's Wadsworth Center.

Gov. Kathy Hochul says the COVID-19 Omicron subvariant BA.2 is showing up in testing for the virus in New York, but she says, so far, it is not spreading as fast as it has in other European countries and the United Kingdom.

Hochul says she’s “not sounding any alarms” about the so far slow growing presence of the Omicron subvariant and is not at this time ordering new masking or any other safety regulations. But she says she’s not prematurely shutting down the state’s vaccination and testing site 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.

She said parents also need to get their children vaccinated. Just 35% of 5-11-year-olds have completed their vaccines.

The state’s health commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett, said New York’s rate of infection may be undercounted, because many use home-administered tests and do not report the results to health authorities.

“We no longer are capturing all of the people who test positive,” said Bassett, “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. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.