Coronavirus

Omicron Variant: NYC, State ‘Closely Monitoring' New COVID-19 Strain

No cases of the newly identified variant have been detected in New York or the rest of the United States, for that matter

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State and city leaders say they're "closely monitoring" the newly identified Omicron variant of the coronavirus as news of the strain raised worldwide alarm and roiled markets Friday.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said the state Health Department was "closely monitoring" the emergence of the virus - though it hasn't been spotted in the United States yet. And both Mayor Bill de Blasio and Mayor-elect Eric Adams signaled that they're not letting their guard down either, according to the Daily News.

The strain, which sports about 50 mutations, was first identified in South Africa earlier this week and was quickly labeled a variant of concern by the World Health Organization. On Friday, the WHO named the variant omicron and warned that preliminary data suggested it had greater potential to evade immunity than previous variants.

Already, the variant has sparked travel bans from southern Africa to many parts of Europe. The United States is also implementing its own ban, which won't be enforced until Monday.

It's still unclear exactly how great a danger Omicron poses to New Yorkers -- vaccinated or not -- but Hochul again encouraged everyone to double down on precautionary measures.

"I want to remind New Yorkers to continue taking the precautionary steps we know reduce the spread of this deadly virus: wear a mask in indoor public places, use proper hand hygiene, get tested, and stay home when sick, she said. "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"