New York on Saturday announced three more cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, bringing the number of state cases linked to the new variant to eight.
“The Omicron variant is here, and as expected, we are seeing the start of community spread,” State Health Commissioner Mary Bassett said in a press release.
The number of states finding the variant is also increasing, with the states of Massachusetts and Washington announcing their first cases on Saturday, a day after New Jersey, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Maryland reported their first confirmed cases. Missouri reported its first suspected case on Friday.
The variant has also been detected in Nebraska, Minnesota, California, Hawaii, Colorado and Utah.
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In New York City, seven of the cases were found in New York City, once the global epicenter of the pandemic, and the other in Suffolk County.
Omicron’s arrival comes as hospitals across the state continue to suffer from an increase in the number of coronavirus cases, most of them due to the delta variant, as well as staff shortages.
The number of people testing positive each day statewide for the virus has doubled in the past 30 days.
Governor Kathy Hochul in recent days has authorized the Department of Health to limit non-essential and non-urgent procedures in hospitals close to lack of beds and has deployed National Guard teams to provide relief to healthcare workers in facilities faced with personnel problems and an increase in the number of cases.
Fifteen members of the National Guard arrived at Monroe Community Hospital in Rochester on Saturday, WROC reported. Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin said on Wednesday the state would send 13 National Guard teams to western New York County, where county executive Adam Bello declared a state of emergency.
The Omicron cases in New York City so far appear unrelated, Hochul said. One of the known cases involved a man from Minnesota who was among 50,000 people who attended a three-day anime festival in New York City in November. Authorities urged everyone who attended the conference to get tested for COVID-19 and wear a mask in public.
Much remains unknown about Omicron, including whether it is more contagious, as some health officials suspect, whether it can thwart vaccines, and whether it makes people as sick as the original strain.
In Washington state, three cases of the Omicron variant were confirmed on Saturday – one in Thurston, Pierce and King counties, state health officials said. They noted that the investigation was still early and details of the trips of the patients, two men and a woman aged 20 to 39, were not yet known.
A Massachusetts woman in her 20s who had traveled out of state is the first known case of the variant detected in her state, the Department of Public Health said on Saturday. The unidentified woman – a Middlesex County resident – is fully vaccinated and has shown mild symptoms.
A woman who recently traveled from South Africa became both the first confirmed case from New Jersey and Georgia after seeking treatment for moderate symptoms in an emergency room. The fully vaccinated Georgia resident was in her home state for two days between arriving from South Africa and traveling to New Jersey, health officials from both states said.
The first three cases of the Omicron variant in Maryland were found in the metropolitan area of Baltimore and include two people from the same household, authorities said. One of the two is a vaccinated person who recently traveled to South Africa. The third case, detected in a vaccinated person with no recent travel history, is unrelated.
In Pennsylvania, a man in his 30s from Philadelphia became that state’s first case. The Philadelphia Department of Public Health did not immediately say whether the man was vaccinated against COVID-19 or if he had traveled.
Missouri’s first suspected case involves someone who recently traveled to the United States, according to state health officials, who did not provide additional details on the St. Louis resident. The St. Louis health department said it was awaiting confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The number of cases in California, Nebraska and Colorado increased on Friday.
Five cases in northern California were linked to a marriage in Wisconsin late last month, public health officials said. One of the people had recently returned from a trip overseas, according to the Alameda County Public Health Department.
Health officials have confirmed six new cases of the variant in southeastern Nebraska. State health officials said the state’s first case was likely from one of six who recently traveled to Nigeria and returned on November 23.
Colorado detected the state’s second case of the Omicron variant just a day after the state’s first confirmed case, officials said on Friday.
“We knew the Omicron variant was coming and we expect to see more cases. But let me be clear: we are not helpless, ”Hochul said. “We have the tools to help prevent the spread of this deadly virus: Get vaccinated, get your booster, and wear your mask. “
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