A Covid-19 pop-up test will take place on a Manhattan street in New York City on October 26, 2021.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images
The new, strongly mutated Covid-Omicron variant should arrive in the “coming days” in New York State, the state’s health commissioner said on Thursday.
“We now have a discovery. We assume that it will be discovered in the coming days.” said Dr. Mary Bassett, who stepped in as state health commissioner Wednesday. Bassett spoke with New York Governor Kathy Hochul at a news conference after Minnesota officials confirmed a second US Omicron case in a local who had just returned from a New York City convention.
“There is no question that it will be discovered in New York State and New York City, but it has not yet been discovered,” said Bassett.
The Minnesota man, who was fully vaccinated and has since recovered, developed symptoms and was tested shortly after he returned from town to attend the Anime NYC 2021 convention at the Javits Center on Nov. 19-21, the department said on Thursday with.
Anime NYC did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
Hochul noted that all congress participants had to get vaccinated and recommended that they get tested. The governor added that the anime convention organizers have a full list of people who attended the two-day event, which will make it easier to track contacts to identify potential outbreaks.
“Everyone had to be vaccinated in order to participate at all,” said Hochul. “So we assume that people who test positive based on at least that first person will have fairly minor symptoms.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is working closely with the state, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the organizers of Congress to contact attendees. In a statement Thursday, he urged participants in the convention, especially those with symptoms, to get tested immediately and follow additional protocols like social distancing.
“We are aware of a case of the variant of Omicron identified in Minnesota that involves traveling to a conference in New York City, and we should assume that the variant is common in the community in our city,” said de Blasio.
Bassett noted that the Wadsworth Center, the state health department’s bio-defense laboratory, continues to perform genomic sequencing to identify the omicron variant.
“It’s not a problem that Wadsworth isn’t doing his job [the variant] hasn’t been discovered yet, “said Bassett.
Hochul said she did not plan to lock down the commerce and schools that crippled much of the state at the start of the pandemic, calling this an “overreaction”.
“I will not panic the people in this state who have been through so much,” said Hochul. “I’m not an alarmist. I’m not thinking about closing schools or the economy at the moment.”
“Imagine where we would be if we didn’t have the vaccination. Then we would be in a crisis,” she said. “I don’t see any return as long as the vaccine and boosters continue to work.”
On Wednesday, the CDC confirmed the first US case of the variant in Northern California. The person, who was fully vaccinated, had returned to San Francisco from South Africa on November 22 and tested positive on November 29, said Dr. White House chief medical officer Anthony Fauci told reporters on Wednesday.
The US is joining at least 23 countries around the world that have confirmed cases of Omicron. The variant was first identified in Botswana last month and reported to the World Health Organization by South Africa about a week ago.
Omicron has more than 30 mutations in spike protein alone, the mechanism the virus uses to enter the body. According to the WHO, some of the mutations are associated with higher transmission and reduced antibody protection.
Some health officials in the US and around the world fear that the profile of the variant could reduce the effectiveness of current vaccines. However, Fauci told reporters on Wednesday that more data is needed.
“The molecular profile of the types of mutations you see [in omicron] would suggest that it may be more transmissible and evade some of the protection afforded by vaccines, “said Fauci.” But we don’t know now.
On Thursday, the Biden announced tightened travel restrictions in and within the United States as part of a broader plan to curb the spread of the new variant.
The administration requires all arriving international passengers to test themselves for Covid within 24 hours of departure and is extending their mask requirement on all domestic flights and public transport until March 18.