New York Omicron cases rise to eight as official warns of community spread

New York announced three more cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus on Saturday, bringing the number of state cases linked to the new variant to eight.

“The Omicron variant is here, and as anticipated we are seeing the beginning of community spread,” the state health commissioner, Mary Bassett, said.

Seven of the cases have been found in New York City and one in Suffolk county.

The arrival of Omicron comes as hospitals statewide strain under a surge in coronavirus cases, most traced to the Delta variant, along with staffing shortages.

The number of people testing positive statewide each day for the virus has doubled in the last 30 days.

Governor Kathy Hochul has authorized the health department to limit non-essential, non-urgent procedures at hospitals close to running out of beds and deployed national guard teams to relieve healthcare workers at facilities dealing with staffing issues and surging caseloads.

Fifteen members of the national guard arrived at Monroe community hospital in Rochester on Saturday, WROC reported. The lieutenant governor, Brian Benjamin, said on Wednesday the state would send 13 national guard teams to the western New York county, where the county executive, Adam Bello, has declared a state of emergency.

New York’s Omicron cases 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 in November.

Authorities have urged anyone 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 authorities suspect, whether it can thwart vaccines and whether it makes people as sick as the original strain.

A woman who recently traveled from South Africa became both New Jersey and Georgia’s first confirmed case after seeking care for moderate symptoms at an emergency room.

The fully vaccinated Georgia resident was in her home state for two days between arriving from South Africa and traveling on to New Jersey, officials said.

Maryland’s first three cases of the Omicron variant were found in the Baltimore region and include two people from the same household, authorities said. One is a vaccinated person who recently traveled to South Africa. The third case, in a vaccinated person with no recent travel history, is unrelated.

A man in his 30s from Philadelphia became Pennsylvania’s first case. The Philadelphia health department did not immediately say if the man was vaccinated against Covid-19 or had been traveling.

Missouri’s presumed first case involves someone who recently traveled within the US, according to state officials, who did not provide additional details about the St Louis resident. The city health department said it was awaiting confirmation from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Case counts in California, Nebraska and Colorado grew on Friday. Five cases in northern California were linked to a wedding in Wisconsin last month, officials said. One individual had recently returned from traveling internationally, according to the Alameda county health department.

Officials confirmed six new cases of the variant in south-eastern Nebraska. State health officials said the state’s first case likely stemmed from one of the six who recently traveled to Nigeria and returned on 23 November.

Colorado detected a second case of the Omicron variant just a day after the first, officials said.

“We knew the Omicron variant was coming and we expect to see more cases. But let me be clear: we are not defenseless,” Hochul said. “We have the tools to help prevent the spread of this deadly virus: get your vaccine, get your booster, and wear your mask.”

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