COVID-19 Awareness

Today Governor Hochul announced steps to protect New Yorkers in the wake of new SARSCoV-2 variants and an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations this summer.

The Governor’s press release names BA.2.86, a variant that has not yet been detected here in New York State, but is a World Health Organization (WHO) Variant Under Monitoring. It has been detected in European countries, and based on historical data, the new variant would be expected to reach the US in the coming weeks.

State Efforts

Wadsworth Center, the Department of Health’s (DOH/the Department) research-intensive public health laboratory, has begun monitoring patient samples for the BA.2.86 variant. Wadsworth Lab is coordinating with statewide health care providers to increase the availability of samples for variant tracking efforts. Wastewater surveillance for variant identification is ongoing.

Nursing home administrators have received notice from the Department reminding them of their responsibility to keep residents protected from infection.

High quality N-95 masks and COVID-19 test kits are available to NY state and county officials by request. Some pharmacies may still have no-cost government funded masks available to those who request them.

The updated vaccines will be available in the coming weeks, and are predicted to be effective against the newly detected variants. It is recommended that those who have been vaccinated do not seek out boosters at this time, but rather wait for the updated vaccine.

 “While New Yorkers might want to be done with COVID-19, COVID-19 isn’t done with us,” Governor Hochul said.

HCP Support

HCP urges home care providers to review masking policies and procedures. Update them if warranted based on what might be a seasonal surge in infections. Tailor your practices to your patient population and the infection risk in your immediate area.

Continue to educate your staff about symptoms and avoiding work if they are sick. Promote COVID-19 (and influenza) vaccination, especially among direct care workers who can put patients at risk of infection. The two vaccines may be administered in the same visit in late September or early October.

Encourage patients in high-risk groups to talk with their primary care provider about protection measures and recommendations for immunization. Masking might be prudent in crowded areas like mass transit.

Monitor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the NYS Department of Health dedicated COVID-19 websites frequently for information on local transmission, mitigating measures, and updated COVID-19 vaccine administration recommendations.

All symptomatic individuals are strongly urged to self-test or see a provider for testing. COVID-19 tests are still available over-the-counter, and are covered by many insurance carriers. As State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said, “Remember, COVID [-19] is now a treatable disease and tests are both easy and highly accurate. Antivirals such as Paxlovid are most effective when started within five days of the onset of symptoms.”