5 things NYC residents should know about Hochul’s ‘State of Emergency,’ which begins on Friday

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STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Several times during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic we’ve heard an elected official call for a “State of Emergency,” and the latest incidence of this occurred Friday when Gov. Kathy Hochul made this declaration due to concerns over the newly-identified omicron variant of coronavirus (COVID-19).

But what does this mean for New Yorkers?

First, it’s important to note that The World Health Organization (WHO) named the variant B.1.1.529 “omicron” on Friday, Nov. 26, calling it a variant of concern.

In addition, no omicron cases have yet been detected in the U.S. so far, but Hochul said there were cases right over the state’s northern border with Canada. Both city and state health officials say they’re monitoring for omicron cases, and expect to see some in the state soon.

With the prevalence of vaccines and treatments against the virus, Hochul said she’s concerned about people’s fatigue over anti-COVID policies, but that an increased focus on the omicron variant could help provide long-term gains.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Here’s what New Yorkers need to know about Hochul’s State of Emergency:

  • The declaration will go into effect on Dec. 3, and will be re-evaluated based on the latest COVID-19 data on Jan. 15.
  • The emergency declaration will allow New York state to acquire more critical supplies to combat the pandemic, increase hospital capacity and address potential staffing shortages.
  • By utilizing the “surge and flex system,” it will allow the state Department of Health to limit non-essential and non-urgent hospital procedures in situations where a hospital has less than 10% staffed bed capacity.
  • Hochul said that the state will be focused on hospitals in counties upstate — rather than New York City — as they have lower levels of capacity for COVID patients.
  • Hochul said Monday her State of Emergency plan will not include shutdowns. “We’re not talking about shutdowns. We’re not talking about re-instituting the harsh measures that were needed in a time we didn’t have any defenses,” she said. “We are in such a different world right now.”

MASK ADVISORY IS BACK

Other elected officials are recommending precautions to prepare for the omicron variant’s arrival in the U.S.

City officials announced Monday that they’d be reasserting the indoor mask advisory with the omicron variant spreading around the globe.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said during his morning media briefing that vaccination is still key to preventing spread of the virus, but that masks also play a part.

“What we are saying clear as a bell today is ‘what has worked up to now continues to be the key,’” the mayor said. “Obviously, masks play a very important role as well.”

The mayor made clear that the new advisory did not amount to a mandate, because the city needs more data, and doesn’t want to take the focus off of vaccination.

In addition, President Joe Biden advised Americans to wear masks indoors and in large crowds at a press conference Monday.

The omicron variant was identified in South Africa on Nov. 23 from a specimen collected on Nov. 9, and has since been identified in Hong Kong, Belgium, Botswana, Israel and other countries. Omicron has at least 30 different mutations — twice as many as the delta variant — which was responsible for a wave of new infections in the United States, and is said to have double the risk for hospitalization compared to the strain of the virus that launched the pandemic.

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