New York prepares for new variant of COVID-19

NEW YORK (WWTI) – Governor Kathy Hochul announced new steps New York State is taking to protect individuals from a new variant of COVID-19, BA.2.86.

These steps come after COVID-19 hospitalizations in New York increased over the summer. An updated COVID-19 vaccine tailored to guard against certain variants is expected to arrive in pharmacies and doctor’s offices this fall.  

“With the increase in hospitalizations and reported cases this summer, I strongly urge everyone to take appropriate precautions to protect themselves and their communities. To keep New Yorkers safe, my administration will continue to monitor this situation, share information on the new boosters as soon as it’s available, and continue to make N-95 masks available statewide.”  

Governor Kathy Hochul

The Food and Drug Administration advised vaccine manufacturers, earlier this year, to develop a new COVID-19 vaccine to target Omicron variants, it is expected to be released in September 2023. Governor Hochul encourages everyone to monitor the CDC and the New York State Department of Health websites frequently for updated information on the COVID-19 vaccine administration recommendations.

To protect all New Yorkers, DOH and the Wadsworth Center continue monitoring for and analyzing samples of the virus that causes COVID-19 as reports emerge of new strains. The ongoing dual surveillance strategies, conducted with partners at Syracuse University and across the state, of wastewater surveillance and laboratory clinical analysis have proven vital to New York State’s ability to understand variant spread and the potential impact on public health.

In response to identifying the new variant, the Wadsworth Center immediately enhanced early detection efforts in New York. Working with collaborators at Syracuse University, analysts searched wastewater data from the last six months to confirm the new strain was not detected in New York. This process will continue to be used to monitor for the variant in wastewater samples. Wadsworth Center is also coordinating with numerous healthcare professionals across the state and collaborating laboratories to expand the pool of clinical COVID samples for analysis to increase the chances of detecting the new variant, should it enter the state.  

As students begin to return to school, Governor Hochul and DOH recommend that schools review current CDC school guidance for COVID-19 prevention and work with the local health department to implement effective and feasible public health measures. 

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the CDC recommends schools:

  • Promote vaccination and testing;
  • Encourage students, teachers, and faculty to stay home if they are sick and exhibiting symptoms;
  • Optimize ventilation and maintain improvements to indoor air quality to reduce the risk of germs and contaminants spreading through the air; and
  • Teach and reinforce proper handwashing and hygiene practices.

Schools that experience outbreaks should work with the local health department for outbreak response support, additional guidance for schools is available here.

Anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 should immediately get tested, if positive for COVID-19, consult a healthcare provider about treatment, it’s important to begin treatment as soon as possible to ensure the utmost effectiveness. If you do not have a regular health care provider you can find locations for treatment here. Those with COVID-19 should follow CDC guidance to avoid transmitting it to others, including isolating for 5 days after the onset of symptoms, as well as masking and avoiding contact with those who may be at higher risk of negative outcomes. 

At-home tests are available at local pharmacies throughout the state and New York continues to make high-quality N-95 masks and test kits available to state and county officials by request. You can contact your respective county health department or local emergency management office for more information.

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