NEW YORK (PIX11) — Positive COVID-19 cases are slowly on the rise in New York State as the two new BA.2 subvariants drive the rising numbers, according to health officials.
On Wednesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul held a briefing in Syracuse on the new numbers.
“When you just hear about new variants, it’s a frightening phenomenon for many people, so I want to make sure that individuals know that their state government has been and will continue to monitor all the numbers,” Hochul said.
Officials aren’t sounding the alarm just yet, saying there’s no evidence that these new variants have severe impacts and adding there’s no reason to panic. The governor also admits there’s a gap in information because home testing is more widely available, leaving the state with a less clear picture.
The increase is mostly in counties throughout central New York, but numbers are increasing across the city too. The Financial District has the highest positivity rate of any New York City neighborhood at more than 15%.
The state is still a long way from the peak in January sparked by the omicron variant with roughly 90,000 cases, but officials don’t want it to get anywhere near that. The seven-day average was more than 4,600 as of Monday.
They are also taking into consideration family gatherings of the recent holidays of Easter, Passover and Ramadan, but the governor admits they don’t have a clear idea of what may come.
Hochul’s continuing the push to get more Americans vaccinated and boosted. Health care professionals like Peter Pitts, visiting professor at the University of Paris Medical School, agree.
“When people are vaccinated, we don’t have a pandemic,” Pitts said. “We have an endemic like the annual flu. When we do the appropriate protective measures, amazing things can happen. That’s why we’re succeeding.”
The governor is also standing by the state’s mask mandate in certain settings like public transit. This comes after a U.S. District Court judge struck down the national transit mandate.
Even though positive cases and hospitalizations are still relatively low, she says, the state was close to putting the masks away altogether, but it won’t be for much longer.
“If we hadn’t seen these two variants, I suspect we would’ve been able to say goodbye to masks in all settings, but we watched for variants,” Hochul said. “They come and now we’re starting to see cases and hospitalizations go up, so we’re going to continue in the short-term again.”
The governor also announced that health care workers are going to be compensated through bonuses and salaries for their tireless work through the worst times of the pandemic.
Health care workers will be getting $1.2 billion in bonuses and home health care workers will receive $7.7 billion in salary wage increases.