Dave Chokshi, MD, Encourages All New Yorkers: Vaccinated and those with Antibodies, to Mask
By Yehudit Garmaise
NYC Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi, MD, today issued a commissioner’s advisory that strongly recommends that all New Yorkers, including those who are vaccinated and those who had COVID-19 to wear masks, when indoors in public settings: like in grocery stores, in building lobbies, offices, and retail stores.
“There are no confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in NYC, or in the US,” said Chokshi, who added that Delta remains the dominant strain in New York City: with 98% of specimens sequenced with the delta variant.
“We do anticipate detecting Omicron in NY in the coming days, based on what we know about its global spread,” the health commissioner said. “A lot is still unknown about Omicron because it is so early, but studies are underway, and we will know more about the variant in the coming weeks.
Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a press conference that “the trend is continuing in a bad direction,” and that the state expects a COVID surge in the coming days and weeks, as a case of Omicron has already been detected in Ontario, Canada.
“The winter surge may be here, or maybe we are just preparing for it,” said Gov. Hochul, who signed an executive order on Friday to limit non-urgent, non-essential hospital procedures to free up hospital beds statewide, if they are needed in the coming weeks.
Today, the World Health Organization warned that the global risk from the Omicron variant is “very high:” based on early evidence that revealed that the mutated coronavirus could lead to surges with “severe consequences.”
“What has worked up to now in fighting COVID continues to be the key: vaccination is No. 1, and masks play a very important role as well,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
“We still have a lot to learn about the Omicron variant, but its emergence lends urgency to the importance of the precautions with which we all have become familiar: particularly vaccination, masking, and testing,” said Dr. Chokshi, who emphasized that those who are now traveling and gathering should be getting tested.
“With our colleagues at the Test & Trace Corps, we will be working to make rapid testing even more readily available in the communities that need it most,” said Dr. Chokshi, who reminded New Yorkers as well that “vaccines are proven to be effective in the here and now.
“For the most recent week of data, unvaccinated New Yorkers were nearly seven times more likely to be infected than vaccinated residents.
“For vaccination, get your first dose, second dose, or booster today, and parents please get your children vaccinated as soon as possible. Cases have been rising, particularly among our youngest New Yorkers in recent weeks.”
In addition, some reports have said that Omicron is more contagious among young people than previous COVID strains have been.
President Joe Biden, called the new Omicron variant a cause for concern, but “not a cause for panic," and said he was not considering any widespread U.S. lockdowns, but that Americans should get fully vaccinated, including booster shots and return to wearing face masks indoors in public settings.
While the current COVID vaccines are believed to provide at least some protection from the heavily mutated Omicron strain, booster shots “strengthen that protection significantly,” said Biden, who added that he is directing federal agencies to move as quickly as possible in approving additional vaccines and boosters that are tailored to shield against Omicron.
“Vaccination is our most potent weapon and our coordination [with state and federal agencies,” is a close second to that, said Adams. “The variant has now been detected in at least 12 dozen countries. We need to take this seriously.
“This means following the guidance of public health officials and listening to the science.”
Adams, who said he got his booster the other day, then reemphasized the importance of “getting your shots.”
“We have to get all New Yorkers to get vaccinated and get their booster shots,” said Adams, who then sent the clear message: “Anyone who believes that we are going to play by a different playbook in the next administration of not pursuing vaccines, they need to know that is not true.
“We are going to be going by the same playbook. We must get vaccinated in a real way, and I am going to continue to advocate and amplify that.”