Three more cases of the mutant U.K. coronavirus strain were found in New York state, including a case that appears to be "unrelated" to the first case Upstate, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.
Cuomo said two of the new cases were related to a Saratoga Springs jewelry store, where the first case was identified earlier this month.
After an employee at the jewelry store was found to have the variant, the state's Wadsworth Laboratory sequenced the virus from five more employees who had tested positive for COVID. After sequencing, Wadsworth confirmed that the U.K. strain was present in two of them.
An additional case was found in Nassau County and “appears to be unrelated to the Saratoga case,” Cuomo said during a conference call with reporters.
The Nassau case is a 64-year-old man from Massapequa who first tested positive for COVID on Dec. 27.
Cuomo said a sample from that case was sent from a private lab, BioReference, to Wadsworth, which has been doing sampling.
"Wadsworth Lab will continue to aggressively sequence samples from around the state, so that any more instances of the U.K. strain can be identified, and immediately contained and contact traced," Cuomo said.
The governor said this brings the total number of U.K. variant cases in the U.S. to about 55, with four of them in New York.
“We believe that it is more widespread than that number would suggest,” Cuomo said.
Officials believe the U.K. variant is much more transmissible but not more deadly. However, Cuomo has warned that it could overwhelm hospitals and lead to future shutdowns in the state. Two more cases of the variant were found in New Haven County in Connecticut, officials announced this week.
Cuomo said there were 258,000 tests done statewide on Friday—a new record. Of those, 16,943 were positive.
The state’s positivity rate dropped from 7.72% the day before to 6.57%, though the governor said that could be “a function of more people being tested.”
Hospitalizations declined by 34 to 8,527; the number of intensive care patients was down by 47 at 1,400; and the number of intubated patients dropped by 36 to 876.
Cuomo said another 188 New Yorkers battling the virus had died.