New York labs testing positive COVID-19 samples for omicron variant
The omicron variant has not been detected in New York, but samples are currently being tested.
Dr. Daniel La, of AFC Urgency Care in East Meadow, says the number of people coming in for COVID-19 testing has recently jumped from around 160 per day to 230.
"Now we're seeing a lot of patients coming back positive, about 4% to 5% of patients coming back positive," La says. "So every hour we're getting two to three patients coming back positive."
Once those positive cases come in, some of the samples are sent back to the New York State Health Department where they are checked for the omicron sequence.
Dr. Dwayne Breining, executive director of laboratory services for Northwell Health, says most of the samples sent for sequencing are picked at random, but certain cases are now being flagged based on possible exposure or travel history.
"If we find out there's someone who recently traveled from one of the areas where this is prevalent, we will send out those samples for testing as well," Breining says.
If the new variant is found on Long Island, Breining says there is a chance it could evade vaccines and therapies or a much better result.
"The flip side of that coin is the best possible news we could get that this actually turns out to be a less clinically severe variant that nonetheless spreads more quickly through the community," Breining says.
The main laboratory that is handling sequencing is the Wadsworth Center in Albany. They process around 100 samples a day that comes from all over New York.