New York state confirmed its first case of a new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus that was initially discovered in the United Kingdom, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.
The strain, which has also been found in California, Florida and Colorado, is thought to be more transmissible but doesn’t appear to make people more ill or increase the risk of death from Covid-19, experts have said.
The case was identified in a 60-year-old man from Saratoga county who had no prior travel history, Cuomo said during a conference call with reporters. The man worked at a jewelry store where three other people have also tested positive for Covid-19. The state is investigating whether those cases were caused by the new strain.
Cuomo told reporters that the state has conducted about 5,000 tests in search for the new variant, known as B.1.1.7. Cuomo said he believes it’s “much more” widespread than people already know.
“If other states could test as much as we were testing and tested for the U..K strain as much as we’ve tested, they would be finding them,” Cuomo said, adding that officials have yet to detect any cases with the strain in the downstate New York City area.
U.S. health officials have said the variant’s arrival in the nation isn’t a surprise, though it could make matters worse if it’s allowed to spread unchecked. While the new variant doesn’t appear to cause more severe disease in people who are infected, and current vaccines should still work against it, it could lead to more hospitalizations as a result of increase the cases, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week.