ALBANY, N.Y. (WWNY) - A COVID-19 case involving the variant first found in the United Kingdom has come to the north country.
At a news briefing Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo showed a map that indicated a case of the more-virulent strain has been identified in Jefferson County.
Local officials said the variant was found in a person who had traveled overseas and returned to the county. Officials said they hope this case has been contained and will not spread.
However, it is still cause for concern.
“One thing that’s yet to be determined is: is the vaccination working against all the variants and what is it combating in terms of exact variants in the virus? So it’s a reason we have to remain diligent in what we’re doing and follow all the precautions,” said Jefferson County Board of Legislators Chairman Scott Gray
He said he didn’t know whether the infected person has symptoms. But, Gray said this is an example of why there are quarantine periods for people traveling abroad and then returning.
The case in Jefferson County is one of 59 cases of the strain found throughout the state. Fifteen have been discovered recently.
The variant is believed to be up to 70 percent more infectious than the original.
“That is a frightening thought,” Cuomo said, “so we’re watching it closely, the CDC is watching it, other countries are watching it.”
It’s still unclear if the variant is more deadly and how effective existing vaccines are against it.
The governor’s map did not indicate any cases of the strain in Lewis or St. Lawrence counties.
A case was discovered in Essex County last week. Another case has been identified in Onondaga County. Elsewhere, cases have been found in Niagara, Allegany, Tompkins, Westchester, Nassau, Suffolk, Saratoga, Ulster, Onondaga, and Warren counties and New York City.
The governor said the variant could cause problems by increasing the state’s positivity rates, which have declined steadily in recent weeks.
“All those numbers are on the way down,” he said. “Well, what could change it? A variant strain could change it,” by being more infectious, more transmittable, more lethal, or resistant to vaccines.
The statewide positivity rate fell from nearly 8 percent in early January to 4.3 percent Thursday. The seven-county north country region’s rate is 5.36 percent.
In the meantime, 2.2 million vaccine doses have been administered in the state, about 500,000 of which were second doses.
At this point, the governor said, the state has administered 99 percent of the doses it has received and is awaiting next week’s allotment.
Hospitals have another week to offer vaccines to workers not already vaccinated. Right now, 75 percent of hospital employees have been inoculated.
Any unused doses will be handed over to local health departments to distribute to people with underlying health conditions.
Cuomo said the state is waiting for CDC guidance for what underlying conditions to include.