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More Omicron Detected, Hospitals Strain12/05 08:48


   (AP) -- New York announced three more cases of the omicron variant of the 
coronavirus Saturday, bringing the number of state cases linked to the new 
variant to eight.

   "The omicron variant is here, and as anticipated we are seeing the beginning 
of community spread," state Health Commissioner Mary Bassett said in a news 

   The number of states finding the variant is growing as well, with 
Massachusetts, Connecticut and Washington state announcing their first cases 
Saturday, a day after New Jersey, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Maryland reported 
their first confirmed cases. Missouri reported its first presumed case Friday.

   The variant also has been detected in Nebraska, Minnesota, California, 
Hawaii, Colorado and Utah.

   In New York, seven of the cases have been found in New York City, once a 
global epicenter of the pandemic, and the other in Suffolk County.

   The arrival of omicron comes as hospitals statewide continue to strain under 
a surge in coronavirus cases, most traced to the delta variant, along with 
staffing shortages.

   The number of people testing positive statewide each day for the virus has 
doubled in the last 30 days.

   Gov. Kathy Hochul in recent days has authorized the Health Department to 
limit nonessential, non-urgent procedures at hospitals close to running out of 
beds and deployed National Guard teams to relieve healthcare workers at 
facilities dealing with staffing issues and surging caseloads.

   Fifteen members of the National Guard arrived at Monroe Community Hospital 
in Rochester on Saturday, WROC reported. Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin said Wednesday 
the state would send 13 National Guard teams to the western New York county, 
where County Executive Adam Bello has declared a state of emergency.

   New York's omicron cases so far appear to be unrelated, Hochul said. One of 
the known cases involved a man from Minnesota who was among 50,000 people who 
attended a three-day anime festival in New York City in November. Authorities 
have urged anyone who attended the conference to get tested for COVID-19 and 
wear a mask in public.

   Much remains unknown about omicron, including whether it is more contagious, 
as some health authorities suspect, whether it can thwart vaccines and whether 
it makes people as sick as the original strain.

   Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont on Saturday reported his state's first confirmed 
case of the variant, saying it may also be linked to the New York City anime 
convention. The case involves a vaccinated Hartford-area man in his 60s who has 
a family member who attended the convention. The family member, who is also 
vaccinated, developed symptoms that have since resolved, Lamont's office said.

   In Washington state, three cases of the omicron variant were confirmed 
Saturday -- one each in Thurston, Pierce and King counties, state health 
officials said. They noted the investigation is still early, and details were 
not yet known on the travel histories of the patients, two men and a woman who 
range from 20 to 39 years old.

   A Massachusetts woman in her 20s who had traveled out of state is the first 
known case of the variant detected in her state, the Department of Public 
Health announced Saturday. The unidentified woman -- a resident of Middlesex 
County -- is fully vaccinated and has experienced mild symptoms.

   A woman who recently traveled from South Africa became both New Jersey and 
Georgia's first confirmed case after seeking care for moderate symptoms at an 
emergency room. The fully vaccinated Georgia resident was in her home state for 
two days between arriving from South Africa and traveling onward to New Jersey, 
health officials in both states said.

   Maryland's first three cases of the omicron variant were found in the 
Baltimore metropolitan region and include two people from the same household, 
authorities said. One of the two is a vaccinated person who recently traveled 
to South Africa. The third case, detected in a vaccinated person with no recent 
travel history, is unrelated.

   In Pennsylvania, a man in his 30s from Philadelphia became that state's 
first case. The Philadelphia Department of Public Health did not immediately 
say whether the man was vaccinated against COVID-19 or if he had been traveling.

   Missouri's presumed first case involves someone who recently traveled within 
the U.S., according to state health officials, who did not provide additional 
details about the St. Louis resident. The St. Louis Health Department said it 
was awaiting confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

   Case counts in California, Nebraska and Colorado grew Friday.

   Five cases in Northern California were linked to a wedding in Wisconsin late 
last month, public health officials said. One of the individuals had recently 
returned from traveling internationally, according to the Alameda County 
Department of Public Health.

   Health officials confirmed six new cases of the variant in southeastern 
Nebraska. State health officials said the state's first case likely stemmed 
from one of the six who recently traveled to Nigeria and returned on Nov. 23.

   Colorado detected the state's second case of the omicron variant just a day 
after the state's first confirmed case, officials said Friday.

   "We knew the omicron variant was coming and we expect to see more cases. But 
let me be clear: We are not defenseless," Hochul said. "We have the tools to 
help prevent the spread of this deadly virus: Get your vaccine, get your 
booster, and wear your mask."

   Meanwhile, 10 people aboard a Norwegian Cruise Line ship approaching New 
Orleans have tested positive for COVID-19, officials said Saturday night. The 
Norwegian Breakaway departed the city Nov. 28 and was due to return this 
weekend after making stops in Belize, Honduras and Mexico in recent days, 
Louisiana's health agency said. More than 3,200 people are on board. Officials 
did not immediately say whether the passengers had been tested for virus 

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