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Omicron variant of COVID arrives in Erie County

University at Buffalo's chief of infectious diseases, Dr. Thomas Russo, told 2 On Your Side that the omicron variant was detected in samples taken Dec. 7.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The omicron variant of COVID-19 has been detected for the first time here in Erie County, University of Buffalo officials confirmed Wednesday.

UB's chief of infectious diseases, Dr. Thomas Russo, told 2 On Your Side that the variant was detected in samples taken Dec. 7.

During a Tuesday news conference, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz reported the omicron variant is three to four times more transmissible than other variants.

Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein reported that the county has received a large supply of rapid tests from the state to use in schools as part of the effort to keep kids in school. 

"They will be able to go the nurse's station right there and know if they will be able to stay in school of if they will have to go home because they have COVID-19," Dr. Burstein said.

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday urged New Yorkers to remain vigilant with the holidays fast approaching.

"As we confront the winter surge, it is vital to remember we have come a long way in our fight against COVID with the best defense we have —  the vaccine —  readily available throughout the state," Governor Hochul said in a statement. "We are actively working to bring more tests in for New Yorkers to reduce wait times as we see more people getting tested for the holidays.

"Get yourself vaccinated along with the booster dose, wear a mask, stay home if you feel sick, and exercise caution when in large gatherings. We have what we need to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. Let's spread joy, not COVID, this holiday season."

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