New York Gov. Kathy Hochul canceled plans to visit Washington, D.C., Monday after testing positive Sunday for Covid-19.
She also announced she would isolate this week and work remotely.
“Thankfully, I’m vaccinated and boosted,” she tweeted Sunday afternoon, encouraging others to take the same steps.
Today I tested positive for COVID-19. Thankfully, I’m vaccinated and boosted, and I’m asymptomatic. I’ll be isolating and working remotely this week.
A reminder to all New Yorkers: get vaccinated and boosted, get tested, and stay home if you don’t feel well.
— Governor Kathy Hochul (@GovKathyHochul) May 8, 2022
Hochul, 63, who became a grandmother for the first time May 1, presides over a state hit hard during the pandemic, particularly at the start in 2020 and after the first Omicron variant picked up steam last Christmas.
An even more contagious Omicron subvariant, BA.2, sparked another surge last month around Passover, Easter and the last weeks of Ramadan and continues to roll through most counties, including those in Western New York.
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Its damage, however, has been limited in a state where better treatments, high vaccination rates and prior infections have combined to create higher-than-ever Covid-19 immunity among residents.
“The best we know is she’s healthy and vaxxed to the max, so I fully expect her to have an uneventful recovery,” said Dr. Thomas Russo, professor and chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
He recommended the governor and others who test positive for Covid-19 isolate for five days and wear a high-quality mask for another five days when they come in contact with others, especially indoors.
“We still have a very high community burden of disease,” Russo said. “Omicron now, as it’s evolving with these subvariants, is becoming extraordinarily infectious. This is a virus that’s not going anywhere. At some point, all of us are going to be exposed, and infected.”
While there are fewer instances of severe illness from Covid, experts say certain groups, especially those who aren’t fully vaccinated or those in high-risk categories, should take precautions.
On April 18, the five-county Western New York region had 89 Covid-positive patients hospitalized, including 10 in intensive care units. Last Thursday, hospitalizations reached 200 – but that included just 6, or 3%, in ICUs.
During the first Omicron surge, hospitalizations peaked Jan. 18, when 701 Covid patients were hospitalized, including 101, or about 14.4%, in intensive care.
Most people realize by now that vaccines are less effective in stopping the spread of Covid-19, its variants and subvariants, Russo said, but remain well-equipped at preventing hospitalization and death.
“What we want is to be in the position that the governor is in right now,” he said. “We want to be vaxxed to the max, so that when we see this virus, we’ll either be asymptomatic or we’ll be minimally symptomatic.”
Vice President Kamala Harris, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are among other government leaders who tested positive earlier in the latest surge.
“We have to remember that in the age of Covid, the risk is never absolutely zero,” Russo said, and greater for those who are pregnant, older than 50, immunocompromised or have underlying chronic health conditions. Someone in these groups, or those who live or work with them, should be vaccinated and boosted, he said, and at this point mask up when indoors with poor ventilation.
Russo encouraged those who test positive for Covid-19 to reach out to a primary care provider, especially if they have a higher risk for a poorer outcome and might be eligible for Paxlovid, an antiviral medication that can lower those risks if given within five days of symptoms.
He predicted the latest surge will continue in the region for at least another week or two, and a bit beyond that downstate, before summer weather firmly plants itself statewide.
A medical panel will convene in mid-June to discuss the prospects forward for an updated vaccine to provide additional protection for another expected uptick in the fall and winter.
The panel could recommend that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stick with the vaccine formulation designed to attack the original virus that emerged in Wuhan, something that targets the newer Delta or Omicron variants, or a combination.
“I suspect that if they do change the formulation, they’re going to probably hedge their bets with a couple of variants included,” Russo said. “This is always contingent on that some new pain-in-the butt variant doesn’t arise.”
Staff Reporter Jon Harris contributed to this report.