New York state is monitoring the new COVID-19 variant, known as BA.2.86, and while state leaders say there are no confirmed cases of the variant in the state at this time, the Wadsworth Lab is working to expand the pool of clinical COVID-19 samples submitted for analysis to increase the opportunity for detecting it, Gov. Kathy Hochul's office announced Tuesday.

“While New Yorkers might want to be done with COVID-19, COVID-19 isn’t done with us,” Hochul said in a statement. “With the increase in hospitalizations and reported cases this summer, I strongly urge everyone to take appropriate precautions to protect themselves and their communities. To keep New Yorkers safe, my administration will continue to monitor this situation, share information on the new boosters as soon as it’s available, and continue to make N-95 masks available statewide.”

The BA.2.86 variant is the most genetically different strain to emerge since omicron, Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said.

"These significant changes are important to note as mutations may allow the virus to evade prior immunity," he said in a statement.

Officials said the Wadsworth Lab would continue to test wastewater samples in addition to clinical samples sent to the lab.

Another recent variant, dubbed EG.5, has led to an uptick in COVID-19 hospitalizations across the state over the last few weeks.

Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration advised vaccine manufactures to develop a new COVID-19 vaccine to target omicron variants and that new shot is expected to be released by the three major COVID-19 vaccine producers in September. 


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