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Hochul: Multiple cases of omicron virus variant detected in NYC

The news came a day after the United States announced its first case of the variant had been detected in California.

ALBANY, N.Y. — Health officials say multiple cases of the omicron coronavirus variant have been detected in New York, including a man who attended an anime convention in Manhattan in late November and tested positive for the variant when he returned home to Minnesota.

In addition to the conventioneer, health officials said tests showed five other people recently infected with COVID-19 had the variant. They included a person in the city’s Long Island suburbs who had recently traveled to South Africa, residents of Brooklyn and Queens, and another case that was possibly linked to travel.

The news came a day after the United States announced its first case of the variant had been detected in California.

"We're not having shutdowns. We're not changing our protocols," Gov. Kathy Hochul said Thursday evening. "We are continuing where we are, but making sure that we work in concert together and encourage people to get tested, get tested often, get the vaccination."

According to a tweet Thursday morning from Governor Hochul, a Minnesota resident who was recently in New York City has tested positive for the omicron variant of COVID-19. 

"Let me be clear: This is not cause for alarm. We knew this variant was coming and we have the tools to stop the spread," Hochul said in a tweet Thursday evening.

At a news conference Thursday evening, Hochul stressed that state officials knew cases would appear at some point.

"No cause for alarm, we just want to make sure that the public is aware of information as we receive it," she said. "We don't have more information at this time, but we suspect they'll be more cases emerging. And the best thing that everyone can do is realize we're not defenseless against this variant at all. That vaccine we know is going to ensure that there's less severe symptoms." 

During a COVID-19 briefing Thursday, Hochul provided more information about the recent COVID case. According to the governor, the person spent time at the Javits Center between Nov. 19 and Nov. 21 for the Anime NYC 2021 convention. They are vaccinated and have mild symptoms, according to Hochul. 

The Minnesota Department of Health stated in a release about the individual that they developed symptoms on Nov. 22 and were tested on Nov. 24.

"We do anticipate there will be more cases, but to the extent that they are mild - we'll address them," Hochul said. "This is not cause for alarm. Again it was foreseen ever since it was first reported out of South Africa that we knew it would come to New York State at some point."

Hochul again pressed people to get a COVID-19 vaccine, and booster shots if eligible, as a line of protection against this variant and other variants that may arise. 

"We are in a far better place than we were at the start of this pandemic," Hochul said. She stated that the state government in collaboration with local governments are prepared.

The state's new Commissioner of Health, Dr. Mary Bassett clarified that information about the omicron variant is still new and that there has not been enough time to determine the severity of if.

"It's not even a week since the scientist in South Africa both talked about and sounded the alarm about this variant," Bassett said. "It does seem to be highly contagious. In South Africa there has been a rapid increase in positive tests, but it seems to have resulted in milder illness, but nobody seems to know for sure."

Hochul's executive order to help increase hospital capacity is set to go into effect Friday. At the press conference she stated she will be providing hospitals with specific guidance on what the state is requiring then.

Additionally, Hochul announced the state will be launching new incentives to get people to get their booster shot. Currently 16% of New Yorkers 18 and older have a booster, and 34% of people over 65 have their booster, according to data Hochul presented.