NY health commissioner doesn’t ‘expect’ major COVID surge

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New York’s top doctor said Monday that state health officials don’t predict a “surge” in COVID-19 cases amid the spread of the highly contagious Omicron subvariant BA.2.

During a press conference in Albany, state Health Commissioner Mary Bassett also revealed that the BA.2 variant detected in January makes up about 42 percent of coronavirus cases in New York.

“At this point … we don’t expect to see a surge in cases in New York State,” she told reporters, as she encouraged New Yorkers to receive their booster doses. “It has been rising over the past couple months, but we haven’t seen the kind of rate of growth … that we’ve seen in the U.K.”

Bassett’s forecast mirrors that of Dr. Anthony Fauci, who said Sunday that the new BA.2 Omicron subvariant may cause an “increase” in US cases as it becomes the dominant strain of the virus, but the jump shouldn’t be as dramatic as previous surges.

Health officials internationally have been monitoring a new Omicron subvariant that has been found in dozens of countries across the globe. BA.2 — which does not appear to be more severe than the original BA.1 but is more transmissible and more able to reinfect people — is one of at least four sublineages of Omicron that has been detected.

On Monday afternoon. Gov. Kathy Hochul vowed to continue closely monitoring trends in COVID-19 data as the pandemic enters a “new phase.”

Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Dr. Mary Bassett speaks at a town hall meeting.
State Health Commissioner Mary Bassett said the department doesn’t “expect” to see an increase in New York Covid-19 cases.
REUTERS/Darren Ornitz
People walk past a covid-19 testing booth on a street in New York city.
The BA.2 variant appears to be less severe than BA.1, though it is more contagious and can reinfect numerous times.
AFP via Getty Images

“We’ve never taken our foot off the gas when it comes to our preparedness for dealing with this pandemic,” she said. “We’re in a new phase. We’ve been adapting to the circumstances and reopening in a way that I still believe should continue.”

“I don’t anticipate a wave, I don’t anticipate a surge, but we have to be ready for anything,” the governor added later in the news conference.

The COVID-19 update comes as New York will soon surpass 70,000 deaths from COVID-19, after the Center for Disease Control reported 69,967 deaths in the Empire State as of Friday. It also comes after Hochul announced Saturday that COVID-19 fell to the single digits in New York and hospitalizations hit the lowest number since Aug. 3, as New York City and state have recently removed coronavirus-related vaccine and masking rules.

The New York State coronavirus positivity rate on Monday was 2 percent — down from 23 percent in January amid the winter Omicron surge — Hochul said. The seven-day average on Sunday of 1.87 percent, according to state data.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul speaks during a Covid-19 press conference.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul said that the administration will continue to monitor COVID-19 cases closely, although a surge isn’t expected.
Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

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