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Just when you thought you didn’t have to worry about COVID

Reports of a new variant (BA.2.86) arise

August 29, 2023 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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Many New Yorkers thought that — now that COVID emergency regulations have been lifted and medications to treat the disease are readily available — they didn’t have to worry about COVID-19 anymore.

However, some people are now getting an unfortunate surprise. There are reports of a new variant, known as BA.2.86.

Fortunately, the state government is on top of the situation: On Friday, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced new steps the state of New York is taking to protect people from the new variant, which has not yet been detected in the state. 

These steps come after COVID-19 hospitalizations in New York increased as the summer progressed. 

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

“While New Yorkers might want to be done with COVID-19, COVID-19 isn’t done with us,” Hochul said. “With the increase in hospitalizations and reported cases this summer, I strongly urge everyone to take appropriate precautions to protect themselves and their communities. 

“To keep New Yorkers safe, my administration will continue to monitor this situation, share information on the new booster as soon as it’s available, and continue to make N-95 masks available statewide.”  She was referring to an updated COVID-19 vaccine, which is expected to arrive in pharmacies and doctor’s offices this fall.

To protect New Yorkers, the Department of Health and the Wadsworth Center, the state’s public health lab in Albany, continue monitoring for, and analyzing samples of, SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. 

The ongoing dual surveillance strategies of wastewater surveillance and laboratory clinical analysis, conducted across the state, have proven vital to New York state’s ability to understand variant spread and the potential impact on public health. 

In response to identifying the new BA.2.86 variant, the Wadsworth Center is coordinating with health care professionals across the state and collaborating laboratories to expand the pool of clinical COVID samples submitted for analysis.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control recommended that schools:

  • Promote vaccination and testing;
  • Encourage students, teachers and faculty to stay home if they are sick and exhibiting symptoms;
  • Optimize ventilation and maintain improvements to indoor air quality to reduce the risk of germs and contaminants spreading through the air; and
  • Teach and reinforce proper handwashing and hygiene practices.

And, as readers undoubtedly know, COVID test kits and N-95 masks are available at drugstores. 

State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said, “The Department of Health remains vigilant for changes to the virus that could further threaten our public health. We continue to monitor as new strains have emerged, with a particular focus on BA.2.86, the most genetically different strain we have seen since the original Omicron variant … Remember, COVID is now a treatable disease and tests are both easy and highly accurate.”

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