More states should follow NYC’s response to omicron



Jahlil Rush, Production Assistant

As the United States combats vaccine hesitation and a surge in COVID-19 cases, the nation finds itself dealing with a new variant in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While vaccination is important, preparing hospitals for the fourth wave of variant cases should be the number one priority. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s swift action to watch a potential new threat in the ongoing pandemic is a responsible next step.

Hochul recently declared a state of emergency in New York to prepare for a surge in cases because of the arrival of the omicron variant. The precautionary measure was announced on Nov. 26 with an intent to aid hospitals as they gear up for a potential winter wave of COVID-19 cases.

“It’s coming,” Hochul said in response to the latest news about the variant. New York has already seen a rapid number of omicron cases detected at its borders.

New York has taken correct steps in encouraging the public to get vaccinated with its non-stop commercials starring New York City’s Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Choksi among other prominent figures in the New York medical field.

Africa was the first continent to cross paths with omicron, with cases being detected in Botswana and South Africa. Since its discovery, the variant has been discovered in countries all over Europe including Belgium, the United Kingdom and others.

The World Health Organization also took the responsible action of characterizing omicron as a “variant of concern.”

“This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs,” WHO said on their website.

In response to the detection and WHO’s reaction to the recently discovered variant, the United States enacted a travel ban from eight African countries. It has been met with criticism.

African leaders are fighting back against the travel bans, accusing wealthy countries of being hypocrites for imposing new restrictions instead of delivering vaccine doses to them, according to a CNN report, .

“We are all concerned about the new Covid variant and owe South Africa’s scientists our thanks for identifying it before anyone else did,” Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera said in a Facebook post. “But the unilateral travel bans now imposed on [Southern African Development Community] countries by the UK, EU, US, Australia, and others are uncalled for. Covid measures must be based on science, not Afrophobia.”

The criticism is understandable from multiple points of view. The travel ban was initially directed toward Africa and not its neighbor, Europe.

If health advisors are going to recommend travel bans, they must be equal in their decision-making and impose it on all countries that reported omicron cases.

On a local governmental level, New York City Mayor-elect Eric Adams needs to work extensively with Hochul as New York is one of the states where COVID-19 cases have reached millions.

President Joe Biden continues to urge the nation to get vaccinated and for those who are already vaccinated to get their booster shots.

“America is leading the world in vaccinating children ages 5-11 and has been vaccinating teens for many months now – but we need more Americans in all age groups to get this life-saving protection,” Biden said. “If you have not gotten vaccinated, or have not taken your children to get vaccinated, now is the time.”

Hochul’s next step should be prepping hospitals statewide with resources to combat the potential wave of omicron cases, including more masks for essential hospital staff and setting aside funds for testing options for New Yorkers.

During the height of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, New York was arguably the epicenter of cases. Hospitals were overcrowded, and cases were skyrocketing. Even now, hospitals endure an overwhelming number of COVID-19 cases.

New York cannot afford another stay-at-home order. To ensure New York does not return to days like those at the height of the pandemic, all state officials should pay close attention to the omicron variant.