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Omicron found in NY, Samaritan gets a state testing site

Published: Dec. 4, 2021 at 5:18 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - This week started with fear and uncertainty as cases of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant out of South Africa began popping up all over the world.

“There is more than we don’t know about the Omicron variant that we do know,” said Dr. Joseph Wetterhahn, the Medical Director at Samaritan Family Health Network.

As the week progressed, 8 Omicron cases have been discovered in New York State.

It’s a cause for concern as COVID cases are already climbing and hospitals across the region are running out of beds.

“People are dying, people are dying, you can’t pretend that this is going on because it is and the numbers are high,” said Michael Seidman, Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center’s Director.

High case numbers have led 10 New York counties to issue states of emergency and officials say Jefferson County could soon do the same.

“It will allow us to do emergency orders if we have to, but I’m not here to prepare to say those will look like yet,” said Jefferson County Legislature Chairman Scott Gray.

There’s also a state-wide state of emergency in place and as of Friday, any hospital with a bed capacity over 90% must cancel elective surgeries.

But, there is some help on the way as the state is partnering with Jefferson County and Samaritan Medical Center to reopen it’s COVID-19 PCR testing location on Monday, offering 100 free appointments per day, 5 days a week.

“They recognize that we need more testing, and we need free testing because not everyone can afford a home test or, you know, at out of pocket expense for a rapid test,” said Samaritan Medical Center’s Leslie DiStefano.

Appointments are on a first come, first serve basis and can be made by visiting samaritanhealth.com and clicking on the COVID-19 testing information tab at the top of the screen.

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