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NEW YORK, ,NY — An upstate man is the first New Yorker to fall ill with a new, potentially highly-contagious strain of coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
Cuomo on Monday announced a state lab detected the strain — putting New York among four states and 33 countries where the variant has reared its head.
The strain doesn’t appear resistant to newly-developed coronavirus vaccines or have a higher mortality rate, Cuomo said.
“But it is more transmittable, which means higher positivity rate, higher infection rate, possibly higher hospitalization rate,” he said.
Experts fear the variant could be 70 percent more contagious than the coronavirus strain that arrived nearly a year ago. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday announced sweeping lockdowns to combat the new variant’s spread.
The first case in New York involved a Saratoga County man in his 60s who is currently “on the mend” after showing coronavirus symptoms, Cuomo said.
The man was “affiliated” with a jewelry store — N. Fox Jewelers in Saratoga Springs — where three other COVID-19 cases have been detected, Cuomo said. He said officials don’t yet know if those cases are the UK strain as well.
“He did not travel recently so this suggests it was in the community,” he said.
The store has been closed from Dec. 24 to Monday, Cuomo said. He said health officials want people who visited the store between Dec. 18 and 24 to get tested.
The strain is likely more widespread than currently known, but it hasn’t shown up in New York City, Cuomo said.
“We’ve done 5,000 tests in the state, we haven’t found it downstate yet,” he said.