‘It’s coming’: Gov. Kathy Hochul declares state of emergency in New York to boost hospital capacity and address staffing shortages in response to new Covid variant Omicron after Biden announced US will ban travel from eight African countries
- Hochul on Friday declared a ‘disaster state’ due to COVID levels being at a rate not seen in the state since April 2020
- She stressed that Omicron has not yet been found in the U.S. but experts believe it is only a matter of time
- Hochul announced hospitals have the option of canceling of elective surgeries, if they become dangerously overwhelmed, to free up staff and facilities
- Her move was in response to the new COVID variant Omicron, which begun in Botswana and is spreading rapidly in South Africa
- It has now been found in Hong Kong, Israel and Belgium, with around 100 confirmed cases worldwide
- Experts do not yet know if Omicron is more transmissible or more dangerous, but they fear it could be more resistant to vaccines or immunity
The governor of New York on Friday warned the worrying new COVID variant is ‘coming’ to the US, and announced that hospitals could cancel elective surgeries in preparation for an expected surge – as the US bans flights from eight Southern African countries to try and prevent the mutant strain from arriving.
Kathy Hochul on Friday said that all non-urgent procedures could be postponed, beginning December 3, if the hospital’s capacity falls dangerously low.
If a hospital finds that it has fewer than 10 per cent of ‘staffed bed capacity’ free, then it will be permitted to cancel the non-urgent procedures, she ruled.
She also issued a ‘, noting that COVID transmission is at a level not seen since April 2020. The declaration unlocks sweeping powers for her to take emergency measures, without the usual congressional approval.
‘We continue to see warning signs of spikes in COVID this winter, and while the new Omicron variant has yet to be detected in New York State, it’s coming,’ Hochul tweeted.
Kathy Hochul, the governor of New York, on Friday warned the state that the new COVID variant, Omicron, was on its way, tweeting: ‘It’s coming’. She issued an executive order allowing hospitals whose bed capacity falls dangerously low to cancel elective operations
A nurse operates a ventilator for a patient with COVID-19 who went into cardiac arrest and was revived by staff, in Yonkers in April 2020. COVID transmission is now as high as it was then, the governor said on Friday
Hours earlier,confirmed that travel from and seven other countries in the region had been halted.
The new variant was first found in Botswana and has since moved to South Africa, where it is spreading rapidly through six provinces.
It has also been found in Hong Kong, Israel and Belgium.
Hochul’s declaration of a ‘disaster emergency’ acknowledges that the state is struggling – even before Omicron hits.
‘A disaster has occurred in New York State, for which the affected local governments are unable to respond adequately,’ the declaration states.
‘New York is now experiencing COVID-19 transmission at rates the State has not seen since April 2020.
‘The rate of new COVID-19 hospital admissions has been increasing over the past month to over 300 new admissions a day.’
It means that she can acquire pandemic supplies and enact the emergency hospital plan.
Hochul’s predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, declared a disaster emergency on March 7, 2020.
It ran until June 24, and was ended amid controversy, with Cuomo’s critics saying that he had used the emergency powers to consolidate his own personal power and rule in an authoritarian way, bypassing the legislature.
Cuomo said the decree could be lifted because of progress made in combatting the pandemic.
‘Given New York’s dramatic progress against COVID-19, with the success in vaccination rates, and declining hospitalization and positivity statewide the state of emergency will expire,’ he said at the time.
Hochul said that the current data is worrying, and again urged New Yorkers to get vaccinated, noting that just under 10 per cent of adults in the state had still not received their first shot.
‘The vaccine remains one of our greatest weapons in fighting the pandemic, and I encourage every New Yorker to get vaccinated, and get the booster if you’re fully vaccinated,’ she said.
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