NEW YORK (WABC) -- Gov. Kathy Hochul announced new steps New York is taking to protect people from COVID-19 amid reports of a new coronavirus variant.
Tuesday's announcement came after COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state have increased over the summer.
"While New Yorkers might want to be done with COVID-19, COVID-19 isn't done with us," Governor Hochul said. "With the increase in hospitalizations and reported cases this summer, I strongly urge everyone to take appropriate precautions to protect themselves and their communities. To keep New Yorkers safe, my administration will continue to monitor this situation, share information on the new boosters as soon as it's available, and continue to make N-95 masks available statewide."
Hochul said the Department of Health and the world-renowned Wadsworth Center are continuing to monitor and analyze samples of of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
The ongoing dual strategies of wastewater surveillance and laboratory analysis have proven vital to New York State's ability to understand variant spread and the potential impact on public health, officials said.
In response to the new BA.2.86 variant, the Wadsworth Center immediately increased early detection efforts in New York. Analysts searched wastewater data from the last six months to confirm the new strain was not detected in New York.
They say this process will continue to be used to help monitor for the new variant in wastewater samples.
The Wadsworth Center is also coordinating with health care professionals across the state and collaborating laboratories to expand the pool of clinical COVID samples submitted for analysis. The hope is this will increase the chances of detecting BA.2.86, should it enter the state.
"The Department of Health remains vigilant for changes to the virus that could further threaten our public health," said State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald. "We continue to monitor as new strains have emerged, with a particular focus on BA.2.86, the most genetically different strain we have seen since the original Omicron variant. These significant changes are important to note as mutations may allow the virus to evade prior immunity. Remember, COVID 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."
Officials also said New York will continue to make high-quality masks and test kits available to state and county officials upon request.
All New Yorkers are encouraged to talk to their doctor about updated COVID-19 vaccines expected this fall.
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