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New York Has 20 Confirmed Omicron Cases And Counting; New Policies Coming Friday, Gov. Hochul Says

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- New York has confirmed 20 cases of the Omicron variant and more are expected, Gov. Kathy Hochul said during her COVID update Thursday.

The latest count showed 13 cases in New York City, three in Suffolk County and one in Westchester County. Three cases were found upstate.

"At this point, we are prepared to say what we have is community spread. It is not coming from people who have traveled," Hochul said.

WATCH: Gov. Hochul Gives Update On COVID, Omicron Variant In New York

The Omicron variant has been found in more than 25 states and nearly 60 countries, according to Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett.

"We know that in this state there are more undetected Omicron cases, as there are also in the rest of the country," said Dr. Bassett. "I do want to stress that the uptick that we're seeing in cases and in hospitalizations reflects the Delta variant. It remains overwhelmingly the dominant strain."


Bassett added, "We don't know yet whether Omicron will outcompete Delta."

Hochul has widely left it up to local governments to implement COVID policies, but in light of the recent numbers, the governor is prepared to step in.

"I will continue to reserve the right to take other steps if necessary, and the numbers right now are not looking good," she said.

New policies are expected Friday. The question is will the new policies put the rest of the state more in line with what the city is already doing?

Hochul has already required nearly three dozen upstate hospitals to suspend elective surgeries except in serious conditions.

Now, she's ordering 1 million more testing kits to be distributed across the state, especially to schools.

"We are still having variants that are being created and it's largely due to individuals not being vaccinated and basically creating a playground for this virus to continue to mutate," said Dr. Melissa Dundas with NYU Langone Health.

Vaccinations remain the best form of protection, but state officials say only about 20% of 5- to 11-year-olds have received a shot as new variants pose an added risk.

"Those that were initially being exposed was to the Alpha variant, which wasn't wreaking as much havoc within the pediatric population. What we're starting to see is that the Delta variant is causing more concern for the pediatric population," Dundas told CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas.

Thursday, the FDA authorized Pfizer booster shots for 16- and 17-year-olds.

This comes amid a recent surge of boosters being administered in adults. As an added incentive to get booster shots, tickets to see the Rockettes will now be available at a handful of locations.

Nearly two years in and health officials warn it's still too soon to let our guard down.

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