COVID-19

First case of Omicron reported in Suffolk County; residents urged ‘not to panic’

Governor Kathy Hochul announced the first confirmed cases of the COVID-19 omicron variant in New York State Thursday evening, including a Suffolk County resident with a history of travel to South Africa.

Ms. Hochul said the Suffolk resident, who she later described as a 67-year-old woman, did not become symptomatic until after returning home from her most recent trip to the country.

The other four cases were detected in residents of New York City.

“As I’ve said since we first became aware of the emergence of the omicron variant and said earlier today, it was only a matter of time before it was detected here in New York State,”¬†Governor Hochul said in a statement.¬†

The announcement came hours after Ms. Hochul held a media briefing alongside Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett, announcing that the variant had been detected in a Minnesota resident who spent time in New York City at a recent anime convention at the Javits Center. The new cases are not believed to be related to that event.

“The most important advice we can give New Yorkers at this time is to get vaccinated, get a booster shot if you are already vaccinated and wear your mask,” Dr. Bassett said. “We urge the public not to panic, as we are still learning more about this variant and are prepared to handle it.”

Earlier Thursday, Dr. Bassett early reports on the omicron variant of COVID-19 suggest it is highly contagious, but also results in milder illness.

The Suffolk County Department of Health reported more than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 overall Thursday, with a seven-day positivity rate of 6%.