US governors respond to Omicron Variant

Governors in the United States tried Sunday to reassure Americans that their governments are closely monitoring the effects of a new variant of coronavirus that has alarmed scientists.

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont issued a statement Sunday reminding voters to remain vigilant, although the new variant known as Omicron has yet to be discovered in the United States.

"Given the number of countries where Omicron has already been detected, it may already be present in the US," he said in the statement.

Other leaders shared the same tone, cautioned and highlighted the measures they had already taken at the start of the pandemic. Mr Lamont pointed out the network of genome sequencing laboratories in his state and reminded residents to wear masks in indoor public spaces.

Next door in New York, Governor Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency on Friday. Under its executive order, all government agencies are empowered to “take appropriate action to assist local governments and individuals” in order to contain and respond to the coronavirus. Though far from early pandemic rules, the measures were the country's first attempt to accelerate preparation for the arrival of the Omicron variant.

"We're continuing to see warning signs for spikes this coming winter, and while the new Omicron variant has yet to be discovered in New York State, it is coming," Ms. Hochul said in a press release.

California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Twitter on Sunday that the state is monitoring the new variant. He did not announce any new measures, but said the coronavirus vaccine and booster are essential.

The Los Angeles County's Department of Health reiterated that message, saying in a statement, "More studies are needed to determine whether the Omicron variant is more contagious, lethal, or more resistant to vaccines and treatments than other Covid-19 strains." The department added that Los Angeles people should adhere to existing mask requirements.

“While we are still learning a lot about Omicron, we know enough about Covid to take steps that can reduce transmission as we prepare to better understand the additional strategies that may be required to implement this new variant of concerns to be mitigated, ”the statement said.

Health leaders in the United States have said it is all but inevitable that the variant will reach the country, calling this a time of caution, not panic.

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"We will get better information about it," said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, on CNN's "State of the Union" program. “But don't panic. But it is a good reason to strengthen yourself. "

Some leaders tried to calm the residents down. Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee said the state health department was not aware of any cases in the state related to the variant, although he said the state would continue to look out.

“The best way to keep RI safe: get vaccinated. Get your booster, ”he said on Twitter.

On Sunday, his office issued a statement saying the state's health labs are already performing genomic surveillance on samples "that would identify the Omicron variant."

Two more conservative state governors also expressed concern about the variant, but maintained their position that vaccine mandates were off the table for the time being.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said in the State of the Union that while a new variant "is a big problem," promoting vaccination would work better than enforcing it.

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves made similar statements about NBC's Meet the Press. "We are definitely watching this new variant," he said. "We don't currently have all the data we need to make decisions."

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