The newest variant threat in the COVID-19 pandemic has reached American soil, and it’s now officially in one of the country’s most populated areas.
At a rare joint press conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Kathy Hochul confirmed the presence of the recently discovered coronavirus Omicron variant in the state.
Originally discovered by researchers in South Africa, the variant is thought to have a higher re-infection rate than its predecessors. According to reporting from New York Times, there is not yet enough information to support claims that the variant is more highly transmissible nor that it causes more serious illness.
As such, Hochul and de Blasio urged NY residents not to panic, but still encouraged them to get vaccinated or secure their booster shots to protect themselves from COVID-19 in general.
Hochul assured citizens that there are currently no plans of a major shut-down nor other safety measure changes in response to the new confirmed cases.
“This is not a cause for major alarm,” she told NYT reporters.
Of the five cases of the Omicron variant, one emerged in Suffolk County NY in a woman who had recently returned from a trip to South Africa. Two were discovered in Queens, one in Brooklyn, and one more in New York City, from another person who had traveled recently.
The sole case discovered in Minnesota was found in a woman who had also just recently returned from a trip to New York to visit an anime convention. Hochul urged those who attended that same convention to get tested as soon as possible as well.
Both Hochul and de Blasio also urged NY residents to wear masks indoors in the wake of the newest variant but did not announce a mandate.
Though they stress that there is no immediate cause for panic, de Blasio and Hochul acknowledge that this is likely only the beginning of Omicron’s presence in the city and the state.
“We have to assume there’s community spread,” de Blasio told the press.