Scientists work in a laboratory testing COVID-19 samples at the New York City Health Department during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in New York on April 23, 2020.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
New York State runs about 1,000 genome tests every week to look for new, contagious variants of Covid, said state health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, at a news conference on Friday.
“The new varieties are terrifying: the British variety, the Brazilian variety, now the South African variety,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo at the briefing. “The British variety is here.”
Zucker said the state has done about 6,000 genome tests so far and only found the strain that came from the UK. New York officials have so far identified 25 of these cases, including two new cases in Westchester County and one new case in Kings County. Said Cuomo. According to Zucker, there were no deaths in these cases.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters on Friday that there was “some evidence” that the mutated strain could also be more deadly than the original, which hailed from Wuhan, China.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention previously said there was no evidence that any of the new variants were more deadly or causing more serious illness.
When asked about the potential for higher mortality associated with the British tribe, Zucker said he was in contact with the British science advisor and the evidence is still preliminary.
“The fact that it’s more communicable means there will be more cases. If there are more cases, there will be more hospitalizations, and obviously if there are more hospitalizations there is an obvious risk of more deaths,” Zucker said.
At the briefing, Cuomo said he hoped that President Joe Biden’s new administration would boost vaccine production and enable increased vaccine distribution. New York had given more than 975,000 people at least one dose of the vaccine as of Thursday, according to the state vaccine tracker.
“The British tribe is spreading. We still only have a vaccination rate of 60% to 70% of our hospital workers. This is a problem,” said Cuomo.