New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) on Friday declared a state of emergency aimed at increasing hospital capacity and addressing medical staffing shortages as the nation braces for the new COVID-19 omicron variant.
The new protocols will take effect Dec. 3 and the order will remain in place at least until Jan. 15, when it will be re-assessed.
The emergency declaration will allow the state Department of Health to limit non-essential and non-urgent hospital procedures in situations where a hospital has less than 10% staffed bed capacity.
The order will also expand state purchasing capability to obtain emergency medical supplies.
The troubling omicron variant hasn’t been detected yet in the state, but preparations must be taken now, Hochul warned in a statement. She noted that New York is already seeing “warning signs” of a potential spike in cases even before the omicron variant hits.
“We’ve taken extraordinary action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and combat this pandemic. However, we continue to see warning signs of spikes this upcoming winter, and while the new omicron variant has yet to be detected in New York State, it’s coming,” Hochul added.
“In preparation, I am announcing urgent steps today to expand hospital capacity and help ensure our hospital systems can tackle any challenges posed by the pandemic as we head into the winter months,” the governor emphasized.
“The vaccine remains one of our greatest weapons in fighting the pandemic. I encourage every New Yorker to get vaccinated, and get the booster if you’re fully vaccinated,” she urged.
It has been detected in South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi, Israel and Hong Kong. The first European case has been identified in Belgium.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.