Dangerous UK variant of COVID-19 detected in Long Island man, Cuomo says

People wait in line to get tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Bronx
People wait in line at a CityMD Urgent Care facility to get tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Bronx borough of New York City, New York, U.S., January 6, 2021. REUTERS/David ‘Dee’ Delgado

The fast-moving mutation of the COVID-19 virus has been detected on Long Island and in two more individuals in upstate New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday.

The Long Island case involves a 64-year-old man from Massapequa. Two other men in Saratoga County have also tested positive for the UK variant of COVID-19. 

The mutation is believed to be up to 70 times more contagious than the standard form of COVID-19. Since December, the state has been testing out of its Wadsworth Lab for the variant as New York continues to battle an increase in regular COVID-19 infections.

The UK variant, which the governor described as “incredibly virulent and dangerous,” has dramatically increased the spread in the United Kingdom and Ireland, overwhelming hospitals and sparking new rounds of public shutdowns. 

Cuomo said the Long Island case of the UK variant does not appear to be related to the Saratoga County infections. The three new cases have raised the number of UK variant infections in the U.S. to 55.

“And we believe that it is more widespread than that number would suggest,” the governor added. He again blasted the federal government for being “asleep at the wheel” in failing to require COVID-19 tests for all individuals flying into the United States from the United Kingdom.

Long Island’s positivity rate as of Friday was 9.7%, while New York City’s rate was 6.2%, according to the state Health Department.

Meanwhile, the state reported a new record high of 258,000 COVID-19 tests results, for an overall positivity rate of 6.5%. That’s a 1.2% drop from the 7.7% positivity rate reported on Jan. 8 — which Cuomo indicated might be a result of so many test results being accounted for after numbers fell below 200,000 a day during the holidays. 

“Is that a function of more people being tested? You could suggest that,” Cuomo said.

Approximately 8,561 people statewide are hospitalized with COVID-19, down 34 from the previous day, Cuomo said. Of those hospitalized, about 1,428 people were intensive care, with 876 on intubation.

Another 188 New Yorkers died of COVID-19 on Friday.
On the vaccine front, Cuomo reported that 259,000 people have received the shots this week — double the rate from last week.