Amid omicron variant concerns, Hochul mandates booster availability at all NY nursing homes


A syringe is prepared with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at the Reading Area Community College in Pennsylvania on Sept. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

NEW YORK — New York nursing homes will be required to make booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine available to all residents, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on Sunday.

The governor’s order comes as officials and health experts around the world monitor the spread of omicron, a new “variant of concern.”

“We’ve got to do everything we can to protect vulnerable New Yorkers. That means making sure everyone is able to get a booster. All nursing homes and adult care facilities will now be required to make booster doses available to all of their residents,” Hochul said in a tweet Sunday morning.

While the omicron variant has not yet been identified in the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci on Saturday said he “would not be surprised” if the strain was already in the country.

“We have not detected it yet, but when you have a virus that is showing this degree of transmissibility and you’re already having travel-related cases that they’ve noted in Israel and Belgium and other places, when you have a virus like this, it almost invariably is ultimately going to go essentially all over,” Fauci said on “Weekend TODAY.”

Scientists in South Africa announced this week that they had detected the B.1.1529 variant, also known as the omicron variant. News of the discovery sent governments and financial markets around the world reeling.

The World Health Organization held an emergency meeting, where B.1.1529 was determined to be a “variant of concern,” a label applied when a particular variant is especially virulent, transmissible or able to defeat public health measures.

On Friday, Hochul issued an executive order aimed at boosting hospital capacity ahead of a potential winter spike in COVID-19 cases.

The Biden administration also announced a travel ban on South Africa and seven other southern African nations. The restrictions, which begin Monday, will not apply to returning U.S. citizens or permanent residents, who will continue to be required to test negative before their travel.

Other nations, including the 27 countries that make up the European Union, issued similar travel restrictions in an attempt to slow the spread of the new variant. However, confirmed or suspected omicron cases have already emerged in several European countries, as well as Israel and Hong Kong, just days after it was first identified by researchers in South Africa.

This story comprises reporting from The Associated Press and Nexstar Media Wire.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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