The South African COVID-19 variant has been found in Nassau County, the first confirmed case in a New York resident, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Sunday.
Sequencing performed on a sample from the individual done at a New York City lab and confirmed at the state’s Wadsworth Center lab showed it was the South African variant, Cuomo said in a news release.
Scientists and health officials fear the variant could be more contagious, less responsive to treatments and more likely to reinfect people who already had the virus.
The South African variant was first identified in the United States late last month in South Carolina. A Connecticut resident hospitalized in New York City was found to have the variant last week as well, Cuomo said. More information on the emergence of the variant on Long Island was not immediately available.
The news comes as New York’s rate of positive COVID-19 cases dropped below 3% for the first time since Nov. 23.
The state recorded 6,610 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday including 546 in Nassau County and 513 in Suffolk County.
“We continue to see a reduction in positivity and hospitalizations throughout the state, which is good news, and this progress is allowing us to reopen the valve on our economy even further,” Cuomo said in a statement. “But with the discovery of a case of the South African variant in the state, it’s more important than ever for New Yorkers to stay vigilant, wear masks, wash hands and stay socially distanced. We are in a race right now — between our ability to vaccinate and these variants which are actively trying to proliferate — and we will only win that race if we stay smart and disciplined.”
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