omicron

Mayor-Elect Eric Adams Still Plans to Visit Ghana Despite Global Omicron Variant Fears

The omicron variant of the coronavirus is enough of a concern there’s now an official mask advisory from New York City's health commissioner. 

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New York and New Jersey establish new protocols to mitigate the spread of the latest COVID-19 variant. Tracie Strahan and Andrew Siff report.

What to Know

  • Despite growing worldwide concerns pertaining to the recently discovered omicron variant of the coronavirus, Mayor-elect Eric Adams still plans to visit Ghana, his spokesperson, Evan Thies, confirmed.
  • “I made a promise to myself that I would visit Ghana following the 400-year anniversary of slavery in America and the election, to show how far we have come and remember how far we still must go," Adams' statement reads in part. "I will continue to be in contact with the transition team on our progress toward January 1, and with the mayor on pressing matters including Omicron while I’m in Ghana.”
  • The omicron variant of the coronavirus is enough of a concern there’s now an official mask advisory from New York City's health commissioner. 

Despite growing worldwide concerns pertaining to the recently discovered omicron variant of the coronavirus, Mayor-elect Eric Adams still plans to visit Ghana, his spokesperson, Evan Thies, confirmed.

“I made a promise to myself that I would visit Ghana following the 400-year anniversary of slavery in America and the election, to show how far we have come and remember how far we still must go," Adams' statement reads in part. "This election to me was, among other things, about resetting a negative narrative so that we can have a more just and united future. I will continue to be in contact with the transition team on our progress toward January 1, and with the mayor on pressing matters including Omicron while I’m in Ghana.”

While not much is known about the so-called omicron strain, New York state and city leaders say they're "closely monitoring" the newly identified variant of the coronavirus and no cases of the newly identified variant have been detected in New York or the rest of the United States for now.

Flights from South Africa and seven other southern African countries into John F. Kennedy International Airport were filled with only American citizens on Monday as the nation's travel ban meant to slow the spread of a new COVID-19 variant goes into effect.

It's still unclear exactly how great a danger omicron poses to New Yorkers -- vaccinated or not -- but Gov. Kathy Hochul encouraged everyone to double down on precautionary measures: mask-wearing, hands washing and getting vaccinated.

"The vaccine also remains one of our greatest weapons in fighting the pandemic, and this news further emphasizes the need for each of us to get vaccinated and get the booster if you're fully vaccinated," Hochul said.

The omicron variant of COVID-19 appears to be more infectious than the delta variant, and the high number of mutations on omicron means that all vaccines may be less effective, Moderna's CEO said Monday.

The variant known scientifically as B.1.1.529 was little known to the public until November 24, when South African officials reported it to the WHO. It took the organization just two days to elevate its profile and status substantially.

"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" variants of concern, the organization said in a statement Friday.

"(This) variant has been detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage."

As of the morning of Nov. 29, the variant has been detected in at least 15 countries on five continents, including Canada. (Dutch state broadcaster NOS reported that among 600 passengers from two quarantined flights out of South Africa, 10% tested positive for some version of the coronavirus.)

Media reports indicated that multiple of the confirmed cases were in vaccinated people, though South African doctors noted that the vast majority of the infected were unvaccinated.

The omicron variant of the coronavirus is enough of a concern there’s now an official mask advisory from New York City's health commissioner. 

"What we are saying is when you’re indoors - regardless of vaccination status — everyone should be wearing a mask," city Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said Monday during Mayor Bill de Blasio's press briefing.

“When it comes to COVID, I have said time and time again that I will follow the science and our public health professionals as a leader—and right now travel is banned only to Southern African counties out of an abundance of caution," Adams' statement went on to say. "Should the federal government change their guidance on travel, I will immediately follow it. Meanwhile, New Yorkers must remain vigilant about preventing the spread of COVID, including wearing masks and getting their vaccines and booster shots.”

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