Speed Reads

'we are in a far better place'

New York governor says not to panic as 5 Omicron cases are reported in state

Five cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant have been reported in the New York City metropolitan area — two in Queens, one in Manhattan, one in Brooklyn, and one in Suffolk County on Long Island — officials announced Thursday.

New York is sequencing about 15 percent of all COVID-19 tests, New York City Health Commissioner David Chokshi said, and these Omicron cases indicate community spread. "This is not just people who are traveling to southern Africa or to other parts of the world where Omicron has already been identified," Chokshi said. 

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) tried to reassure residents, saying she had no intention of ordering lockdowns because of the Omicron variant. Compared to the beginning of the pandemic, "we are in a far better place, that people are informed," she said. "There's not a panic. It is still a public health crisis, but does not have to be a crisis that leads to shutdown." According to Hochul, the patient in Suffolk County received at least one vaccine dose, and recently traveled to South Africa. 

Earlier Thursday, Minnesota health officials reported the state's first case of the Omicron variant, detected in a person who recently traveled to New York City to attend an anime convention. The first confirmed Omicron case in the United States was in San Francisco, detected in a resident who traveled to South Africa. 

Researchers are now working to determine whether Omicron is more transmissible, causes severe illness, and/or is able to get through the protections offered by current COVID-19 vaccines and previous infections.