(NewsNation Now)— New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says his state has found its first case of the “UK” strain of the coronavirus, raising concerns about threats to hospital capacity should it spread rapidly in the state.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a conference call with media on Monday. He announced that Wadsworth lab confirmed a local case of the COVID-19 variant, named B117, first identified in the U.K.
Cuomo says that a man in his 60s living in a town north of Albany has the new strain. The man, who is recovering, had not traveled recently. He owns a jewelry store in Saratoga County, N Fox Jewelers, located on Broadway. The store has been closed since December 21, 2020, but the state is asking all customers who visited the store from December 18 through December 21 to be tested for COVID-19.
“Wadsworth lab confirmed a case of the U.K. strain in Saratoga County,” Cuomo said. “He’s a man in his 60s who had some symptoms. He did not travel recently, so evidence suggests it’s in the community.”
Wadsworth Laboratory, based in Albany, began research into a new strain of COVID-19, which was first spotted in the United Kingdom, in late December.
New York has carried out 5,000 tests for the new strain – and so far has only found the one case. Cuomo says it could be a “game changer” if the new strain increases hospitalizations and forces regions to close down.
“I think this strain is more prevalent than people know,” Cuomo said.
The B117 COVID-19 strain, according to NY Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, is more transmittable. The governor said this strain is thought to be 70% more contagious than the original COVID-19 strain and he said contact tracing is paramount to mitigate the spread of the strain.
“It’s about contact tracing,” said Cuomo. “We want to make sure we’re doing everything we can. We need the community’s help.”
New York State Public Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said there’s no evidence yet that the new variant isn’t affected by vaccines, or that it is more dangerous for people who are infected.
WROC/WWTI and Reuters contributed to this report.