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Hochul takes aim at new variant of COVID-19 as numbers rise

Gov. Hochul Tuesday urged New Yorkers to take extra precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as the state is examining an especially virulent new strain of the virus amid a surge in infections and hospitalizations.

The governor said the state is providing free masks and closely monitoring test results and wastewater samples to keep tabs on the BA.2.86 variant, which is spreading across the nation but has not hit the Empire State.

Hochul said schools should be particularly vigilant for signs of new outbreaks as children return to classrooms. She also ordered staffers to contact nursing homes to warn them about the increasing trend.

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

Even though numbers appear to be rising, there is no immediate sign that BA.2.86 is more dangerous than previous strains of COVID.

State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald called the 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,” McDonald added.

A new version of the COVID vaccine is expected to be available soon to provide enhanced protection against the new variant and others.

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