Five people in New York state, including four in New York City, have tested positive for the omicron variant of the coronavirus, city and state officials announced Thursday evening.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio held a joint press conference in the evening to urge calm, and ask New Yorkers to get vaccinated and mask up while indoors after the news.
According to officials, of the five cases detected thus far, one is a resident of Suffolk County, two are residents of Queens, one is a resident of Brooklyn, and the fifth is a suspected traveler in New York City.
The Suffolk County resident, a 67-year-old woman, had been vaccinated, Hochul said. It is unclear at this time if the other people had been vaccinated.
Hochul warned New Yorkers not to panic over the detection of the omicron variant in New York.
"While this may be highly transmissible - at least from the early evidence and again, more information is still forth coming - we want people to know the early cases that have arisen are not life threatening," Hochul said. "They seem to be minor cases and that is a source of good news for us right now."
De Blasio told New Yorkers to assume there has been community spread, and to prepare for more cases in the coming days.
"We know we now have cases in New York City. We have to assume that means there is community spread. We have to assume that means we're going to see a lot more cases," the mayor said.
Earlier in the day, Hochul announced that a Minnesota man who recently visited the city also tested positive for the variant.
"They were at a conference at the Javits Center. We have been in touch with the Javits Center," Hochul said. "The information is still evolving, but we understand that this individual, while they were vaccinated, they have very mild symptoms. And in fact, those symptoms have already resolved. That is good news."
Hochul urged people who attended the Anime NYC 2021 convention, held Nov. 19 to Nov. 21, to get tested. She said health department officials were already in the process of contacting the approximately 53,000 people who attended the event.
In the meantime, the mayor is doubling down on vaccine mandates. The city announced all nonpublic school employees will be required to show proof of at least one dose of the vaccine by Dec. 20. The rule will apply to approximately 56,000 employees at 938 schools across the city. Public school employees have been required to be vaccinated for weeks now or risk losing their pay.
What's less clear is how the city plans to enforce the new mandate among private school workers. The new mandate could also face opposition among workers in religious schools, especially in parts of the city where resistance to vaccines and misinformation about the virus has been prevalent.