NEW YORK CITY (WROC) — Gov. Kathy Hochul hosted a COVID-19 briefing Thursday morning to update New Yorkers on the state’s ongoing pandemic response efforts, including a development on the omicron variant, the latest on the “disaster emergency” executive order, and a new booster campaign.

Omicron in New York?

The second known case of the omicron variant of COVID-19 in the U.S. has been identified in Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Health confirmed Thursday. The patient recently traveled to New York City, where they attended a conference at the Javits Center on November 22, the governor said.

“We understand the patient’s symptoms have already resolved, and that is good news,” Gov. Hochul said. “Get vaccinated, get boosted, and get ready. We expect cases to go up. We knew it [omicron] would come to New York state at some point and we are prepared for this. We are ramping up our efforts to get more vaccinations out there. Testing is widely available now.”

On testing, the governor said the state is making more COVID-19 testing kits available to school districts around New York. She said if students and stay test negative, they will be able to stay in school, and she encouraged local health departments to get these over-the-counter tests out to parents and schools quickly.

As cases and hospitalizations continue to surge in New York, particularly in Upstate regions, the governor said she does not plan on, or agree with, shutting down schools or businesses, or instituting restrictions seen earlier in the pandemic.

“I’m not prepared to do that response — that would be an overreach,” Gov. Hochul said.

Joining the governor for Thursday’s briefing was Dr. Mary Bassett, New York State’s new health commissioner.

“To confront a pandemic is never easy,” Dr. Bassett said. “In three decades of public health work, I’ve learned the importance of truth telling. I’ll tell the public what we know: The pandemic is evolving.”

In the health commissioner’s first appearance at a governor’s COVID briefing, she said New Yorkers can take steps to reduce the spread of the virus.

“There are small steps that we can all take to make a difference,” Dr. Bassett said. “Get vaccinated, wear a mask — we are all in this together.”

Dr. Bassett said she “fully expects” for omicron cases to be confirmed in New York state in the coming days.

“Disaster Emergency” Executive Order

Last week the governor announced an executive order designed to help boost hospital capacity ahead of a potential winter spike of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

“We are ready to deal with this,” Gov. Hochul said. “We are not defenseless against this variant, we can handle this. Unlike what happened last March, we are in a far better place today. I don’t want people to panic with this.”

The so-called “Disaster Emergency” executive order allows the New York State Department of Health to limit “non-essential, non-urgent” procedures in hospitals or health care systems with already limited capacity. The order defines “limited capacity” as below 10 percent staffed bed capacity, or at the discretion of the DOH “based on regional and health care utilization factors.”

The new protocol came Friday amid warnings about a new and highly transmissible coronavirus variant known as “omicron. The first confirmed case of omicron in the U.S. was found Wednesday in California.

WHO officials said Monday that the global risk from the omicron variant is “very high” based on the early evidence, saying the mutated coronavirus could lead to surges with “severe consequences.” 

“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,” Gov. Hochul said last Friday.

The governor’s order also allows the state health department to limit non-essential surgeries, if needed, to ensure capacity. The governor added the order also will allow the state to acquire critical supplies more quickly.

The move comes amid growing concerns about hospital beds and staffing. As of last week, 37 hospitals in New York state were reported to be at or below 10% available capacity, according to the New York State Department of Health.

Wednesday, the governor announced 60 National Guard Medical Teams would be deployed to long term facility locations in need of extra assistance across the state. According to the governor’s office, the medical teams will assist at nursing homes and long-term care facilities where the need for additional resources has been identified.

“We recognize that we have needs, and we need to fill the gaps in our employment in our hospitals,” Gov. Hochul said. “We will be releasing further guidance to the hospitals soon.”

State officials say the state Department of Health is coordinating the deployment of National Guard resources with each impacted facility to ensure the deployments target each facility’s unique needs and that the additional staff is assimilated smoothly.  

Vaccination and Boosters

The governor said COVID case rates and hospitalizations are higher in Upstate New York compared to Downstate areas, a trend she attributed to localized vaccination rates.

“There is one reason, individuals choosing to not get vaccinated,” Gov. Hochul said. “The upward wave of hospitalizations directly correlates with areas that have low vaccination rates.”

The state’s vaccination progress, according to the governor Thursday, is as follows:

  • 29,921 total vaccine doses administered
  • 113,929 doses administered in past 24 hours statewide
  • 90.9% of New Yorkers 18 and older with at least one dose
  • 80.8% of New Yorkers 18 and older fully vaccinated
  • 72.% of New Yorkers 12-17 with at least one dose
  • 64% of New Yorkers 12-17 fully vaccinated

The governor encouraged those who are eligible to get their booster shots, saying the state will offer a new booster incentive which will include ski and snowboard passes for New York state resorts. She said 16% of New Yorkers 18 and older are fully vaccinated and boosted, and 37% of New Yorkers 65 and older are fully vaccinated and boosted.

“We need both of those to go up,” Gov. Hochul said. “I want more people boosted. The Boost Up New York campaign is a six-figure digital campaign to encourage New Yorkers to get boosted before the holidays.”

According to the governor’s office, the Boost Up New York campaign will be featured at popular grocery stores, malls, and transit stations statewide including on bulletins, posters, and multimedia screens. They say the program will also reach online advertising including use on search engines and social media platforms.

“With this campaign, we are getting the message out with banners and displays to get people excited about booster shots as they get ready to celebrate the holidays,” Gov. Hochul said. “If you are over 18, you can get the free booster dose immediately. It will give you that extra protection, and it also helps to protect your loved ones. This is the ultimate act of kindness that you can exercise this holiday season.”

New numbers

Thursday’s statewide COVID-19 data, according to the governor’s office, is as follows:

  • Test Results Reported – 233,784
  • Total Positive – 11,300
  • Percent Positive – 4.83%
  • 7-Day Average Percent Positive – 4.61%
  • Patient Hospitalization – 3,093 (+71)
  • Patients Newly Admitted – 471
  • Patients in ICU – 591 (+5)
  • Patients in ICU with Intubation – 314 (+1)
  • Total Discharges – 216,218 (+371)
  • New deaths reported by healthcare facilities through HERDS – 49
  • Total deaths reported by healthcare facilities through HERDS – 46,623
    • The Health Electronic Response Data System is a NYS DOH data source that collects confirmed daily death data as reported by hospitals, nursing homes and adult care facilities only.
  • Total deaths reported to and compiled by the CDC – 59,280
    • This daily COVID-19 provisional death certificate data reported by NYS DOH and NYC to the CDC includes those who died in any location, including hospitals, nursing homes, adult care facilities, at home, in hospice and other settings.
  • Total vaccine doses administered – 30,005,074
  • Total vaccine doses administered over past 24 hours – 127,089
  • Total vaccine doses administered over past 7 days – 565,319
  • Percent of New Yorkers ages 18 and older with at least one vaccine dose – 86.0%
  • Percent of New Yorkers ages 18 and older with completed vaccine series – 78.4%
  • Percent of New Yorkers ages 18 and older with at least one vaccine dose (CDC) – 91.0%
  • Percent of New Yorkers ages 18 and older with completed vaccine series (CDC) – 80.8%
  • Percent of all New Yorkers with at least one vaccine dose – 74.3%
  • Percent of all New Yorkers with completed vaccine series – 66.7%
  • Percent of all New Yorkers with at least one vaccine dose (CDC) – 78.4%
  • Percent of all New Yorkers with completed vaccine series (CDC) – 68.6%

Each region’s 7-day average of cases per 100K population is as follows:

RegionMonday, November 29, 2021Tuesday, November 30, 2021Wednesday, December 1, 2021
Capital Region50.2352.9655.74
Central New York43.0045.5249.67
Finger Lakes55.5358.9661.53
Long Island35.8938.1641.63
Mohawk Valley57.8761.0864.17
New York City16.8017.4118.66
North Country55.4859.0662.53
Southern Tier50.1253.3056.71
Western New York66.0467.5468.88

Each region’s 7-day average percentage of positive test results reported over the last three days is as follows:

RegionMonday, November 29, 2021Tuesday, November 30, 2021Wednesday, December 1, 2021
Capital Region7.85%8.13%8.15%
Central New York7.17%7.54%8.12%
Finger Lakes9.87%10.46%10.69%
Long Island4.95%5.17%5.50%
Mohawk Valley9.76%9.20%8.90%
New York City1.87%1.94%2.10%
North Country9.40%9.54%9.36%
Southern Tier6.28%6.30%6.49%
Western New York10.53%10.60%10.92%

Full press conference

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.