By Mark Hallum
A man in upstate Saratoga County has been confirmed as being the first New York state resident to contract the strain of COVID-19 originating from the United Kingdom believed to be up to 70% more infectious as the original virus, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo.
The man, in his 60s affiliated with N. Fox Jewelers at 404 Broadway in Saratoga Springs, has three other associates down with the virus but it has not yet been confirmed as the “117 strain” currently pushing England into further lockdowns.
“As it was a retail establishment, we need the cooperation of the public,” Cuomo said. “My guess is the states that are effective at looking for it will find it.”
The Wadsworth Center, which discovered the case, took 40 hours to process the results, according to Cuomo, and the shop has been closed since Christmas Eve. No cases of the 117 strain have been identified downstate.
The Capital Region has seen an increase in recent weeks, but Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said the heightened rate of spread could be attributed to the new strain which has been spotted by researchers in Colorado and Florida, among others.
“The feeling is that it is likely that this increasing number of cases not only in New York but also across the country is probably reflective of the fact that there is a variant around and it’s causing the more transmissible nature of the disease,” Zucker said.
Zucker and other health officials have said the 117 strain will likely be responsive to the vaccines put out by various companies.
According to Cuomo, the new strain may not be more severe in its symptoms, but the rate of its spread is of concern to the governor’s office which has been working to manage hospital capacity in the state.