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COVID-19 Omicron variant: New York, tri-state area confirm more cases as hospitals strain from delta surge

The tristate area has counted just under a dozen cases of the COVID-19 omicron variant as hospitals continue to feel the strain from the delta surge. 

Health officials have confirmed cases of the omicron variant in over a dozen states, including New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. New York City, where a Minnesota case of omicron originated, alone has confirmed seven cases. 

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The number of people testing positive for coronavirus rose over the month of November, from just over 3,000 new cases at the end of October to around 7,500 cases three weeks later when the omicron variant was identified in South Africa and named by the World Health Organization (WHO). 

A mobile COVID-19 vaccination and booster shot site operates out of a bus on 59th Street south of Central Park as patients wait on the sidewalk, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, in New York. Health officials say multiple cases of the omicron coronavirus variant have been detected in New York, including a man who attended an anime convention in Manhattan in late November and tested positive for the variant when he returned home to Minnesota. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) 

Officials know little about the omicron variant besides indications that it possesses greater transmissibility than other variants, which raises concerns in states already struggling with hospital space. 

New York State confirmed eight cases overall, while New Jersey confirmed its first case on Friday and Connecticut confirmed its first case on Saturday. 

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Connecticut noted that the positivity rate has exceeded 6.5%, with hospitalizations reaching their highest point since April 2021. New Jersey stopped collecting hospitalization data around March 2021. 

And hospitalizations have continued to steadily increase in upstate New York: The seven-day average of new hospitalizations per 100,000 has remained roughly the same, but admissions rose from 345 to 508 per day over that time period. 

A person takes COVID-19 test at mobile testing site near Grand Central Terminal on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, in New York. The omicron variant of COVID-19, which had been undetected in the U.S. before the middle of this week, had been discovered in at least five states by the end of Thursday, showing yet again how mutations of the virus can circumnavigate the globe with speed and ease. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura) 

A person takes COVID-19 test at mobile testing site near Grand Central Terminal on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, in New York. The omicron variant of COVID-19, which had been undetected in the U.S. before the middle of this week, had been discovered in at least five states by the end of Thursday, showing yet again how mutations of the virus can circumnavigate the globe with speed and ease. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura) 
(AP Photo/Yuki Iwamur)

“Hospitalizations are up, get this number, 150 percent upstate versus downstate,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said Monday. “Not that I’m trying to create an upstate-downstate divide in our state,” she added, “but these are the numbers we’re seeing and they’re very troubling.”

Upstate hospitals, in particular, have suffered from the delta surge, according to the New York Times. Gov. Hochul has deployed 120 National Guard troops to support nursing homes at nine facilities across the state. 

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Hospitals at over 90% capacity may stop elective surgeries as well to help handle the surge. 

But so far South Africa has not reported a sharp increase in ICU admissions and deaths due to the omicron variant. 

Residents stand in the streets of Lawley, South Africa, during a visit of local government officials for the launch of the Vooma vaccination program against COVID-19 Friday Dec. 3, 2021. South Africa has accelerated its vaccination campaign a week after the discovery of the omicron variant of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

Residents stand in the streets of Lawley, South Africa, during a visit of local government officials for the launch of the Vooma vaccination program against COVID-19 Friday Dec. 3, 2021. South Africa has accelerated its vaccination campaign a week after the discovery of the omicron variant of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

Daily cases tripled over the last week alone, from just under 1,000 cases on Nov. 29 to over 3,000 by Dec. 3, according to a report by the South African Medical Research Council published Saturday. Hospitalizations saw a “sharp rise” but the main observation is that “the majority of patients in the COVID wards have not been oxygen-dependent.” 

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The “sharp rise” in admissions may also be “incidental,” with a good number of patients testing positive for COVID-19 after admission for another, unrelated reason. 

Health officials stressed that the data is only from the first two weeks following the identification of omicron, and they need more time to determine the full severity of cases. 

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