42 cases of UK COVID-19 variant detected in New York, Cuomo says

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A total of 42 cases of the highly contagious UK variant of the coronavirus have now been detected in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo revealed Wednesday.

The number is up by 27 since the governor reported on Jan. 4 that 15 cases of the strain had been identified across the Empire State. At the time, two of those 15 cases involved patients in Queens and Manhattan.

It was not immediately clear how many more, if any, of the new cases of the strain were tied to New York City residents.

“These new strains are something to be aware of and something to anticipate and something to watch,” Cuomo said during an Albany press briefing, referring not only to the UK variant, but also the new strains of COVID-19 that have emerged out of South Africa and Brazil.

“We don’t know what exactly is going on with the new strains and the concept of not knowing is very troubling for me,” said Cuomo, adding, “But we haven’t known what was down the road with COVID from day one – from before day one.”

Cuomo explained, “There’s a big question mark on these new strains,” and noted how the nation’s top health experts predict that “the UK strain may be the dominant strain by March.”

“That’s a big question mark because that would suggest we’re gonna’ see the numbers go up, so yes, it creates anxiety and all I can tell you is we watch it and we adapt,” said Cuomo.

New York state’s first known case of the UK variant was detected earlier this month in a 60-year-old Saratoga Springs man who officials believe contracted the disease at a local jewelry store.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 positivity rate across New York has been tracking downward following a holiday-related coronavirus surge.

“All the numbers are down across the state so then we focus on who’s highest, obviously,” said Cuomo, pointing out that the Bronx has a COVID-19 positivity rate of 6.9 percent, “which is significantly higher than surrounding counties and it has been higher for a number of weeks now and that’s of concern to us.”

The coronavirus statewide positivity rate was 5.44 percent Wednesday, while the rate of total hospitalizations for the bug ticked down by 60, bringing the statewide total to 8,771, data shows.

ICU admissions were up by 14, putting the new total at 1,588, while the number of intubations was also up by 21, bringing that figure to 1,027.

The state recorded 170 deaths as a result of coronavirus in the 24-hour period ending midnight Wednesday. 

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