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COVID-19: NY Hospitals, Labs To Test For UK Strain

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered statewide hospitals to begin testing for a COVID-19 strain from the UK.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered statewide hospitals to begin testing for a COVID-19 strain from the UK. Photo Credit: CDC

New York Gov Andrew Cuomo has directed hospitals statewide to begin testing for the new COVID-19 strain in the United Kingdom that could be more viral and transferrable than the original virus, though not more deadly.

On Tuesday, Dec. 22, Cuomo announced that Wadsworth Laboratory has started researching the newly reported strain that has been circulating in the UK, while ordering New York hospitals to begin testing for it.

According to Cuomo, Wadsworth has looked at more than 3,700 virus sequences identified in New York, but has yet to find the UK variant present in any of the samples, though he hopes to be proactive in fighting it.

The World Health Organization has said the new strain was identified in England as early as September and had been detected as far away as Australia.

Wadsworth and the Department of Health have also forged agreements with six hospitals across the state to obtain additional samples and is making arrangements with other hospitals to do the same, Cuomo noted.

The hospitals with agreements already in place include:

  • Montefiore;
  • Memorial Sloan Kettering;
  • Northwell Long Island;
  • University of Rochester;

  • Albany Medical Center;
  • Saratoga Hospital.

Cuomo first brought up the UK strain during his latest COVID-19 briefing on Monday, Dec. 21 when he requested that Delta, Virgin, and British Airways begin pre-flight testing before departing to New York, all of which agreed. 

“The UK variant is a real issue - not only is it believed to be 70 percent more contagious than previous strains, but there is a very real chance it is already here,” Cuomo said. “Upon learning of this new variant, we immediately worked with airlines to ensure that anyone getting on a plane from the UK bound for New York tests negative, but we need federal action and we need it now.” 

COVID-19 has been spreading rapidly through New York State as the temperature has dropped and more people are forced indoors to celebrate the holiday season.

There have now been more than 100 new daily COVID-19 fatalities reported in New York in seven out of the last eight days.

There were 164,868 COVID-19 tests administered statewide on Monday, Dec. 21, with 9,716 New Yorkers testing positive for a 5.89 percent infection rate. There are currently 6,661 hospitalized with the virus and there were 139 newly reported deaths, numbers that are raising caution flags for the governor.

"The hospital capacity is a concern for New York,” Cuomo said on Tuesday. “We’re keeping a fine eye on our hospital capacity."

Statewide, a total of 857,049 New Yorkers have tested positive for COVID-19 out of 23.47 million tests administered in the past 10 months, including 28,709 fatalities.

"We know that the virus originally got on a plane and came to New York from Europe in the spring,” Cuomo added. “It’s inexcusable that the federal government has failed to learn that lesson and we need them to do the smart thing and institute testing requirements for travelers entering the United States from any country.

“In the meantime, it's on the rest of us to be smart and continue fighting to stop the spread,” he said. “Just remember -- celebrating smart stops shutdowns. so as everyone prepares to celebrate the holidays, do your part and socially distance, wear a mask and wash your hands."

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