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Dr. Bassett, New York's health commissioner, is wary about a possible BA.2 coronavirus surge

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Karen DeWitt
WSHU Public Radio
New York Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett speaks at a COVID briefing at the state's Wadsworth Labs as Gov. Kathy Hochul, left, looks on.

The COVID-19 omicron sub-variant BA.2 is slowly spreading in New York, according to State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett.

Bassett said the variant was spreading slower in New York and the U.S. than in other countries.

“We’re watching it, but we haven't seen the huge escalation and rapid increase that was seen in the U.K.,” Bassett said.

The seven-day COVID-19 positivity rate in New York and on Long Island was about 2%. Fewer than 1,000 New Yorkers were hospitalized with coronavirus for the sixth consecutive day Wednesday. Bassett said the positivity rate has risen over the last few weeks, which she said was expected with the new variant.

The commissioner credited the slow spread to emerging tools used to monitor the new variant.

The state is tracking the virus through wastewater surveillance, which allows the health department to monitor coronavirus surges through public sewage systems, days before positive test results.

“We get a passive window into what’s going on in terms of shedding viruses without people having to do anything,” Bassett said.

Bassett said around 75% of the state’s population uses public water, making it an important resource for the health department. She said New York is among the first states to use wastewater to track the virus.

Monitoring septic systems for COVID-19 has been done over the last two years by research institutions, like Stony Brook University and Yale.

Molly is a reporter covering Fairfield County. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.