By now, you've all heard about yet another COVID-19 variant causing a modicum of panic across the world. Although Omicron, as the new variant has been dubbed, has not yet been detected in New York, the city just issued a health advisory recommending all residents resume wearing masks indoors and in public settings regardless of vaccination status.
It's important to note that the re-issued mask advisory is not a full-fledged mandate and it actually falls in line with a similar recommendation that the city had made back in August, when cases caused by the Delta variant started surging.
"There are no Omicron cases here in New York City at this moment. It is very likely there will be, but there are no cases at this moment," said departing Mayor Bill de Blasio during an official update on the situation today. "Our entire focus once again is going to be on vaccination. Based on everything we know, vaccination is crucial to any strategy for addressing Omicron."
The politician was joined by Dr. Dave Chokshi, commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, who mentioned that it might be "a matter of days" before a case caused by the variant is found in the city.
Masking: Today, I am issuing a Commissioner’s Advisory STRONGLY recommending that all New Yorkers wear a mask AT ALL TIMES when indoors and in a public setting – like at your grocery, building lobbies, offices, and stores.— Commissioner Dave A. Chokshi, MD (@NYCHealthCommr) November 29, 2021
Omicron was first detected in South Africa but reports of cases across other countries—from Israel to Japan—have made headlines in the past few days. Although vaccine companies are currently testing the strength of the shots against this new strain, it might take a couple of weeks to thoroughly understand how effective the inoculations are. This past weekend, the World Health Organization (WHO), declared that Omicron does pose a "very high" global risk with a higher transmission rate than we've seen so far.
In addition to re-issuing the mask advisory, the Mayor today extended the vaccine mandate for city-funded child care workers, now including an additional 102,000 employees at day cares in the city. Those folks have until December 20 to get their COVID-19 shots.
We, of course, encourage New Yorkers to follow guidance by professionals but try your best not to panic. Here's to hoping we'll be out of this seemingly endless virus situation soon.