The new COVID-19 strain that came from the United Kingdom and surfaced in New York this week is causing concern for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who called it “highly problematic” while saying it “could be a game-changer.”
For the first time, the UK strain was confirmed in a New York resident following reports of an outbreak that was traced back to a retail jewelry store in Saratoga Springs this week.
- Related story - COVID-19: First NY Case Of More Contagious 'Super Strain' Of Virus Confirmed In Store Worker
Cuomo stressed that “anyone who was exposed, or anyone who was exposed to someone who was exposed should please contact us … there’s nothing to be ashamed of, but we have to know.”
The governor said that sharing possible exposure to the new strain is “vitally important.’
“This is a virus that we have to be extra careful with,” Cuomo said on Tuesday, Jan. 5. “We spent the morning talking to global experts, and the numbers are frightening on the increase of the transmission of the virus, which is a very real problem.”
Cuomo reiterated that New York is currently in a nine- to 12-month footrace with the virus, though the new, more transmittable strain, could skew the ultimate outcome.
“We’re in a footrace between vaccine implementation versus the infection rate and hospital capacity, but this UK strain changes the whole footrace because the rate of transmission goes way up,” he said. “If the rate of infection goes way up, then it’s no longer the race that we were running.
“Apparently the UK strain can actually overtake the original COVID strain in a matter of weeks, that’s how quickly it can transmit,” Cuomo continued. “The UK strain is not only in the UK, it’s in 33 other countries, so it dramatically increases our challenge and we have to be aware of it.”
During his latest COVID-19 briefing, Cuomo also called on the federal government to implement pre-flight testing for the virus for all travelers coming into the country from overseas.
“The government has to be competent, and our government leaders are supposed to be competent. This isn’t about excuses, or about apathy or bureaucracy. Why do we not have mandatory testing of everyone flying into this country,” Cuomo questioned.
“It’s not a travel ban, just mandatory testing,” he added. “We’ve gone through this all, just test all international travelers before they are allowed to enter the state.”
Cuomo made note that the federal government’s failure to act mirrors what happened in March last year when the virus was believed to be in China, but had actually already been transmitted to Europeans, who brought it to the tri-state area on international flights.
“What’s infuriating is that this happened to us last spring, and we clearly didn’t learn the lesson,” he said. “The virus left China and the virus went to Europe and it was in Italy, and it was in the UK, and those people went on a plane and came to New York and that’s why New York had that initial ambush.
“So now there’s a second strain and it came from the UK, and again, the United States of America did nothing,” Cuomo continued. “How many times do we have to learn the same lesson over and over again. What happened to competent leadership in our government?”
Cuomo said that much like insisting that flights from the UK get tested before landing in New York, he will take similar actions if the federal government doesn’t enact certain mandates for international travelers.
“The United States must act, but if they won’t act, then New York State will. I can’t allow people to fly into this state who we know are coming from countries with other viral strains,” Cuomo said. “New York loves being the gateway, and we love welcoming people from all across the globe.
“That has always been our role … that’s how we wound up here, and we celebrate it,” he added. “But to allow this virus to be landing at our airports and make New York a petri dish while the federal government does nothing, I can’t allow that to happen. If I allowed that to happen I wouldn’t be doing my job as the governor of the state of New York.”
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.