Five omicron cases detected in New York

New York Gov. Kathy HochulKathy HochulThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden champions filibuster reform, but doesn't have the votes States carve out billions in budgets for electric vehicle surge Overnight Health Care — Presented by AstraZeneca and Friends of Cancer Research — Biden vaccine rules on shaky SCOTUS ground MORE (D) announced on Thursday that five cases of the COVID-19 omicron variant have been detected in the Empire State.

New York is now the fourth state to detect a case of the new variant, following California, Minnesota and Colorado.

Hochul revealed during a press conference Thursday that one of the positive cases was identified in Suffolk County and four in New York City, including two in Queens, one in Brooklyn and one from a yet undetermined borough.

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The infected individual in Suffolk County is a 67-year-old female who recently traveled to South Africa. She was at least partially vaccinated, Hochul said, but it remains unknown if she had completed her initial vaccination series or received a booster shot.

The vaccination statuses of the four other cases also remain unknown, Hochul said.

The New Yorker from an undetermined borough tested negative for COVID-19 upon returning to the U.S. from South Africa on Nov. 25, but received a positive result on Nov. 30 after taking another test.

Her symptoms, which include a headache and cough, are mild, Hochul said. She is also a "suspected traveler case," according to Hochul.

Hochul emphasized that the discovery of omicron cases in New York is “not a cause for alarm.”

“We knew this variant was coming and we have the tools to stop the spread. Get your vaccine. Get your booster. Wear your mask,” she added on Twitter.

During Thursday’s press conference, at which Hochul spoke alongside New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioWatershed moment in NYC: New law allows noncitizens to vote Hochul calls for permanent legal to-go cocktails in NY Andy Cohen blasts de Blasio during Times Square NYE MORE (D), she said the state suspects that more omicron cases will emerge before emphasizing the importance of getting vaccinated and following COVID-19 mitigation measures.

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“The best thing that everyone can do is realize we're not defenseless against this variant at all,” Hochul said. 

“The booster is something I would highly recommend. If you're not vaccinated, get vaccinated, if you have vaccinations, both series, get the third dose which is your booster, ensure that our children are masked up as well as making sure that they get their vaccinations,” she added.

The governor said the state is “not having shutdowns” or “changing our protocols,” citing a lack of key information on the variant, as it was just recently detected.

De Blasio at the press conference said that, following the discovery of multiple omicron cases in New York City, officials “have to assume that means there’s community spread.”

“We have to assume that means we’re going to see a lot more cases,” he added.

The omicron strain, which the World Health Organization (WHO) labeled a "variant of concern" last week, was first detected in southern Africa. It has since been reported in more than 20 countries around the world.

The first U.S. case of the variant, which has a high number of mutations, was detected in California on Wednesday.

Health officials worldwide are now racing to compile information on the variant, including its transmissibility, severity and how well existing vaccines protect against illness from the new strain.

The WHO wrote in a technical brief on Sunday that the variant poses a “very high” risk across the globe.

The discovery of omicron cases in New York comes after officials in Minnesota revealed earlier on Thursday that an individual in their state who was found to be infected with omicron had attended the Anime NYC 2021 convention in New York City.

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De Blasio, during the press conference on Thursday, said a test and trace team is working to identify individuals in the city who are considered close contacts of the positive Minnesota case. He called contract tracing “absolutely crucial.”

The mayor had predicted that omicron would eventually be detected in the Big Apple after the news of the Minnesota case, writing in a statement “we should assume there is community spread of the variant in our city.”

President BidenJoe BidenCarville advises Democrats to 'quit being a whiny party' Wendy Sherman takes leading role as Biden's 'hard-nosed' Russia negotiator Sullivan: 'It's too soon to tell' if Texas synagogue hostage situation part of broader extremist threat MORE on Thursday unveiled a multi-pronged plan to address the delta and omicron COVID-19 variants, which includes an emphasis on at-home diagnostic tests, tighter testing regulations for international travelers and new efforts to urge individuals to get vaccinated and receive the booster shot.

The U.S. has already restricted travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi in response to the new variant.

— Updated at 7:40 p.m.