New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has signed an executive order postponing elective surgeries in the state because of the warning signs that there will be spikes of COVID-19 infections this winter and because of the threat of the new omicron variant of the disease.
“We’ve taken extraordinary action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and combat this pandemic," the governor said Friday, reports The New York Post. "While the new Omicron variant has yet to be detected in New York State, it’s coming."
The rapidly transmissible omicron variant, which emerged in South Africa and is named after a letter in the Greek alphabet, has sparked new fears because it appears to have a high number of mutations in the coronavirus spike protein, and that could affect its ability to spread to more people, according to health experts.
Hochul said that with her executive order, she's also announcing "urgent steps today to expand hospital capacity and help ensure our hospital systems can tackle any challenges posed by the pandemic as we head into the winter months."
COVID-19 vaccines remain one of the "greatest weapons" in fighting the pandemic, she added, and she encouraged all New Yorkers to get their shots and their boosters.
The rule on non-essential surgeries will be for hospitals with a limited capacity of being at or below 10% of their available staffed bed capabilities and will take effect on Dec. 3. The order will be reevaluated on Jan. 15, based on what the information is on the virus and its spread at that time
Hochul said the executive order will also allow New York to move critical supplies quickly.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 rates are remaining lower in New York City, which has high vaccination rates, compared to upstate regions where vaccination rates are still at low levels.
The highest positivity rate in the state is in the Buffalo/Western New York region, where Hochul is from. There, 9.67% of residents had tested positive as of Thursday and Erie County has reimposed an indoors mask mandate.
In other regions' three-day averages, Finger Lakes is reporting 8.85%; North Country/Adirondacks, 7.82%t; Mohawk Valley, 7.7%; Syracuse/Central NY, 6.46%; and the Albany/Capital Region, 6.96%.
New York City's positivity rate is at 1.65% or less than half the state's 3.84% average. The city has strong vaccination mandates for government employees.
The state Department of Health vaccine tracker shows 18 upstate counties that have fewer than 70% of adults who have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
But in New York City, 97% of adults in Queens and 94% in Manhattan have gotten their shots, followed by 86.4% in the Bronx, 84.4% in Staten Island, and 82.9% in Brooklyn.
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