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N.Y. enters new state of emergency hoping to head off Omicron COVID-19 variant

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N.Y. enters new state of emergency hoping to head off Omicron COVID-19 variant
A bus is seen traveling in New York City on Thursday. A new state of emergency in New York state, largely the result of the Omicron coronavirus variant, began on Friday.  Photo by Peter Foley/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 3 (UPI) -- New York state entered a new state of emergency on Friday that's designed to get ahead of the Omicron coronavirus variant, and the emergency comes with some new restrictions.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the emergency earlier this week amid reports of the new Omicron variant, which authorities have found in many parts of the United States after it was first discovered in Africa.

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"We've got to do everything we can to protect vulnerable New Yorkers," Hochul tweeted early this week. "That means making sure everyone is able to get a [vaccine] booster.

"All nursing homes and adult care facilities will now be required to make booster doses available to all of their residents."

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Nearly 70% of New York residents are fully vaccinated, including 91% of adults, according to state health figures.

A masked taxi driver is seen in his cab on Fifth Avenue in New York City on Thursday. Photo by Peter Foley/UPI

Hochul's emergency declaration will allow the state to buy pandemic-related supplies, increase hospital capacity and head off potential staffing shortages. It would also allow the state health department to limit non-essential and non-urgent procedures at hospitals.

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"We've taken extraordinary action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and combat this pandemic," Hochul said in a statement. "The vaccine remains one of our greatest weapons in fighting the pandemic, and I encourage every New Yorker to get vaccinated, and get the booster if you're fully vaccinated."

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New York City announced on Thursday that it's requiring all employees at private and church-based schools to be vaccinated. It's believed to be the largest effort in the nation to require religious schools to comply with a vaccine mandate.

The New York City mandate covers almost 1,000 schools and 56,000 employees. Employees must receive the first dose by Dec. 20.

"We're doing everything in our power to protect our students and school staff, and a mandate for non-public school employees will help keep our school communities and youngest New Yorkers safe," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said, according to The New York Times.

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