New York Gov. Kathy Hochul will halt non-urgent, elective surgeries in the state amid a spike in the new Omicron COVID-19 variant.
Mrs. Hochul signed an executive order on Friday, in hopes of preventing hospital staff shortages over an anticipated rise in cases.
“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,” Mrs. Hochul said.
The governor added that she will announce protocols to expand hospital capacity, and encouraged unvaccinated New Yorkers to get the shot and those already fully vaccinated to get their booster.
Mrs. Hochul’s order is a move that has not been done since the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, when hospitals across the country were over capacity.
The new variant was designated by the World Health Organization this week as omicron, named after a letter of the Greek alphabet.
The virus, supposedly expected to be more transmissible than other coronavirus strains, was first identified in South Africa.
No cases of omicron have yet to be identified in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though the agency is monitoring potential breakthroughs.
The variant has been detected in travelers going into Belgium, Hong Kong, and Israel.
Two cases of omicron were also detected in the United Kingdom on Saturday.
The United States will restrict travel from non-U.S. citizens from South Africa starting Monday to prevent possible spread of the virus.
Seven other countries, including Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi, will also be included as part of the new restrictions.