NEW YORK (AP) — Gov. Kathy Hochul announced an executive order Friday aimed at boosting hospital capacity ahead of a potential winter spike in COVID-19 cases.
She announced the new protocol amid warnings about a new and highly transmissible coronavirus variant known as “omicron,” which has not yet been detected in New York.
“We’ve taken extraordinary action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and combat this pandemic. However, we continue to see warning signs of spikes this upcoming winter, and while the new Omicron variant has yet to be detected in New York State, it’s coming,” Hochul said in a statement issued Friday. “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.”
Hochul’s order allows the state health department to limit non-essential surgeries, if needed, to ensure capacity.
The governor said the order also will allow the state to acquire critical supplies more quickly.
The move comes amid growing concerns about hospital beds and staffing.
North America’s first confirmed omicron cases were announced in Canada Sunday. As of Monday morning, there have been no omicron cases confirmed in New York or the U.S.
Nations around the world sought to keep the new omicron variant at bay with travel bans and further restrictions, even as it remains unclear what it means for the COVID-19 pandemic. Japan announced Monday it would suspend entry of all foreign visitors.
New cases of the variant identified days ago by researchers in South Africa appeared as far apart as Hong Kong, Australia and Portugal. Portuguese authorities were investigating whether some of the infections there could be among the first reported cases of local transmission of the variant outside of southern Africa.
The stream of new cases showed the near impossibility of keeping the genie in the bottle in a globalized world of travel and open borders.