New York State conducts 1,000 genome checks every week to search for new variants of Covid
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 is conducting about 1,000 genome tests a week to look for new, contagious variants of Covid, the state’s chief medical officer Howard Zucker said 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 so far done around 6,000 genome tests and found only the strain that originated in 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. Neither of these cases resulted in deaths, according to Zucker.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters on Friday that there was “some evidence” that the mutant strain could also be more deadly than the original 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 60-70% of our hospital workers. This is a problem,” said Cuomo.