New York Gov. Kathy Hochul issues state of emergency in response to omicron variant

The state of emergency allows the New York Department of Health to limit non-essential and non-urgent hospital procedures in some situations

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul issued a state of emergency order on Friday in response to the identification of the COVID-19 omicron variant.

The emergency order is intended to increase hospital capacity in New York and will last until at least Jan. 15, when it will be reassessed. 

According to a copy of the order, the state will utilize the "surge and flex system," which allows the Department of Health to limit non-essential and non-urgent hospital procedures in situations where a hospital has less than 10% staffed bed capacity.

The new hospital procedures will take effect Dec. 3.

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New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks to reporters after a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony at the state Capitol in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks to reporters after a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony at the state Capitol in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink) (AP)

Gov. Hochul said while the omicron variant hasn't been detected in New York state, preparations need to be made, adding that the state is seeing "warning signs" of a potential spike in cases.

"We've taken extraordinary action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and combat this pandemic. However, we continue to see warning signs of spikes this upcoming winter, and while the new Omicron variant has yet to be detected in New York State, it's coming," Gov. Hochul said in a press release

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A bustling hallway in the emergency department at Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital due to coronavirus patients in Oceanside, N.Y., in April 2020. (Jeffrey Basinger/Newsday via Getty Images)

A bustling hallway in the emergency department at Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital due to coronavirus patients in Oceanside, N.Y., in April 2020. (Jeffrey Basinger/Newsday via Getty Images) (Getty Images)

"In preparation, I am announcing urgent steps today to expand hospital capacity and help ensure our hospital systems can tackle any challenges posed by the pandemic as we head into the winter months," Hochul added. "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." 

The move comes after President Biden announced a restriction on travel from South Africa and seven other countries in the region beginning Monday.

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Passengers walk through International Arrivals at London's Heathrow Airport, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. The U.K. announced that it was banning flights from South Africa and five other South African countries, effective at noon on Friday, and that anyone who had recently arrived from those countries would be asked to take a coronavirus test. 

Passengers walk through International Arrivals at London's Heathrow Airport, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. The U.K. announced that it was banning flights from South Africa and five other South African countries, effective at noon on Friday, and that anyone who had recently arrived from those countries would be asked to take a coronavirus test.  (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

The World Health Organization announced Friday that the omicron variant has a "large number of mutations … some of which are concerning." 

The variant has been detected in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.

Fox News' Peter Aitken contributed to this report.