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State official: NY doesn’t expect ‘steep surge’ from variant

March 22, 2022 Marina Villenueve Associated Press
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New York’s top health official said Monday that she doesn’t expect to see a “steep surge” in COVID-19 cases as a new variant grows more prevalent in the state.

The variant commonly known as “stealth omicron,” or the B.A.2 lineage of the omicron variant, now represents 42 percent of all cases in New York, according to state Health Commissioner Mary Bassett.

“Even with the rise in cases and the B.A.2 variant.. we don’t expect to see a steep surge in cases in New York state,” Bassett said Monday at an Albany briefing with Gov. Kathy Hochul.

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She said the state’s not seeing a steep rate of growth like the U.K. and other European counties.

New York has reported nearly 15,000 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases positives in the seven days through Sunday, according to the state’s latest data. That includes 6,670 in New York City.

Overall, the number of laboratory cases statewide is up 33 percent from nearly 11,300 cases reported the week ending March 13.

But it’s far below roughly 522,000 new cases reported in the seven days through Jan. 9.

Bassett acknowledged Monday that the state’s data lacks results from at-home COVID-19 tests.

She said the state is looking closely at the data to see whether there’s a big spike in COVID-19 cases, or hospitalizations.

The number of patients with COVID-19 in New York public and private hospitals has dropped to about 900 as of Sunday.

That’s plummeted from a winter peak of 12,671 patients on Jan. 11.

About three-quarters of New Yorkers have received a completed vaccine series, according to the state Department of Health.

Meanwhile, nearly 38 percent of residents have a booster shot.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration announced last month that the state won’t enforce its mandate requiring healthcare workers to get booster shots because of concerns over staffing shortages.

About 57 percent of roughly 146,000 nursing home staffers across New York were fully vaccinated with a booster shot as of mid-March, up from 43 percent in mid-February. Rates are as low as nearly 41 percent in Wayne County in the Finger Lakes, and 42 percent in Brooklyn.

Meanwhile, two-thirds of 514,000 hospital staff have booster shots as of mid-March. That’s up from 54 percent in mid-February.

Bassett and Hochul previously said the state would take another look at the data in May to decide whether the state should take steps to increase booster rates.

When asked whether the state will take action sooner, Hochul said Tuesday that her administration will be “touching base” with nursing homes to see if they’ve had more success raising booster rates. Rates are lowest in Rockland County, which reports 40 percent of roughly 4,700 staff have booster shots.

Some parts of New York are seeing bigger spikes in new COVID-19 cases: Ulster County in the Mid-Hudson Valley reported 300 new cases over the seven days through Sunday, which is triple the amount reported the previous week.

Other counties seeing higher-than-average increases in new laboratory cases include Essex County in the North Country as well as Cortland, Cayuga and Madison in central New York.

Several central New York are seeing an increase in hospital patients testing positive for COVID-19, though rates remain low compared to January.

Hospitals in Albany County, for example, reported 31 patients as of Sunday, up 29 percent from the previous Sunday.

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