Hochul: COVID, flu are still a threat

Jan. 25—Gov. Kathy Hochul said Wednesday that COVID and flu outbreaks continue to take a toll in the state, as 33 COVID deaths were reported on Tuesday.

"I urge all New Yorkers to remain vigilant and continue to use all available tools to keep themselves, their loved ones and their communities safe and healthy," Hochul saidin a media release. "Be sure to stay up to date on vaccine doses, and test before gatherings or travel. If you test positive, talk to your doctor about potential treatment options."

Hochul urged New Yorkers to take common prevention measures — such as staying up to date on vaccines and practicing proper hygiene — to protect from the flu and COVID-19 and reduce the patient burden on local hospitals.

Recently, the New York State Department of Health announced that the XBB.1.5. variant is now the most dominant strain in New York, accounting for more than 50 percent of COVID-19 infections statewide. Emerging at a time when both COVID-19 and flu cases remain high, early data indicates that XBB.1.5. is more transmissible than other circulating variants, though there is not yet clear evidence of significant changes to virulence or severity of disease, the release said.

The state Department of Health's weekly flu surveillance report for the week ending Jan. 14 shows influenza remaining widespread throughout the state for a 15th consecutive week, with a total of 300,907 positive cases across all 62 counties reported to date, according to the release. The report found that confirmed cases statewide dropped 50%, while overall hospitalizations were down 52% from the previous week, with 798 hospitalizations across the state.

Additionally, there were 13 outbreaks in acute care and long-term care facilities, the report determined. There were two additional pediatric deaths, leaving the total at eight statewide.

Hochul encouraged all New Yorkers to get their annual flu vaccine. "The flu virus and the virus that causes COVID-19 are both circulating, so getting vaccinated against both is the best way to stay healthy and to avoid added stress to the health care system," the release said.

The Health Department is continuing its annual public education campaign, reminding adults and parents to get both flu and COVID-19 shots for themselves and for children 6 months and older. For information about flu vaccine clinics, contact the local health department or visit vaccines.gov/find-vaccines/.

Hochul also continued to urge New Yorkers to get their bivalent COVID-19 vaccine boosters. Last month, the Department of Health announced new guidance for bivalent COVID-19 booster doses, which are now available for eligible children as young as 6 months of age.

The updated boosters are the first to be targeted to the original virus strain and recently circulating variants and are recommended for young New Yorkers and all those eligible, the release said. To schedule an appointment for a booster, New Yorkers should contact their local pharmacy, county health department or healthcare provider; visit vaccines.gov; text their ZIP code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233 to find nearby locations.