New and rare COVID variant detected in NYC wastewater; Gov. Hochul urges caution

Health officials have identified a novel and infrequent COVID variant in the wastewater of New York City.
Gov. Kathy Hochul has issued a call for heightened vigilance among New Yorkers, emphasizing the escalating hospitalizations attributed to the virus.
Gov. Hochul's message is clear: Even though the public perception may be shifting away from the pandemic, the virus remains an ongoing concern. The latest variant, designated as BA.2.86, has surfaced in various regions across the nation, but as of now, no cases have been documented within New York residents. However, city health authorities report its presence in the city's sewage system.
Encouragingly, the Commissioner of the Health Department has conveyed that there is currently no indication to suggest increased severity of illness caused by this variant. Nonetheless, officials are urging residents to maintain their awareness of vaccine updates, adhere to mask-wearing protocols, and stay home if displaying symptoms, as these measures continue to serve as the most effective safeguards against COVID-19 transmission.
Anticipating the challenge posed by this new strain, preparations are underway for a forthcoming vaccine release in the coming months. Meanwhile, the state is committed to ensuring widespread access to high-quality masks and testing kits, underscoring their dedication to public health and safety.