ALBANY COUNTY — Three more cases of the highly transmissible strain of COVID-19 from the United Kingdom have been identified in New York State.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the state’s first case, from Saratoga Springs, on Jan. 4. On Saturday, he announced three more cases.
“The UK strain is here, it is real, and the Usain Bolt-like speed through which it spreads is nothing short of frightening,” Cuomo said in making the announcement.
“That brings the number of UK cases in this country to just about 55, and we believe that it is more widespread than that number would suggest,” Cuomo said in his press briefing. “That is, again, as far as I’m concerned, a situation with the federal government was asleep at the switch.”
Also on Saturday, Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy announced 268 new cases of COVID-19 and three more deaths from the disease, bringing the county’s toll to 249.
The latest victims were a woman in her fifties, a man in his eighties, and a man in his nineties.
Two of the new cases of the U.K. strain, known as B.1.1.7, are connected to the first case, in Saratoga Springs, while the third case is unrelated and has been traced back to a man living in Massapequa in Nassau County.
The cases were sequenced through the state’s Wadsworth laboratory in Albany, which has analyzed more than 2,200 viral sequences as part of the state’s U.K. strain testing program.
Following the first identification — the patient is a man in his sixties who worked at N. Fox Jewelers in Saratoga Springs — Wadsworth Laboratory sequenced the virus from five workers at the store who had tested positive for COVID-19. Two of them had the U.K. strain.
The strain is not more severe and does not have a higher mortality rate but it spreads much more easily.
The state’s health department conducted free COVID-19 testing this week for anyone who may have had an exposure related to the Saratoga case. More than 400 people were tested and the Wadsworth Center is screening all positive cases for the U.K. variant, according to a release from the governor’s office.
Separate from the Saratoga Springs cases, a Massapequa man in his sixties was identified as having the U.K. strain after first testing positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 27. Wadsworth received his sample from BioReference following the health department’s call to labs across the state requesting samples which could be analyzed for the U.K. strain. The department is working with contact tracers in Nassau County to identify additional potential exposures.
The free COVID-19 drive-through testing site at the University at Albany is open seven days a week and will prioritize testing for contacts to the U.K. variant case as needed.
As of Saturday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still listed New York as having just one case of B.1.1.7. It listed California with 32; Florida with 22; Colorado with three; Connecticut with two; and Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Texas with one each.
As of Saturday morning, Albany County has had 13,751 confirmed cases, according to a release from McCoy’s office.
Of the 268 new cases, 216 did not have a clear source of infection identified, 34 had close contact with someone infected with the disease, 17 are health-care workers or residents of congregate settings, and one reported traveling.
The five-day average for new daily positives has increased to 272.2 from 251.2. There are now 2,076 active cases in the county, up from 2,034 on Friday.
The number of county residents under mandatory quarantine increased to 3,086 from 3,070. So far, 42,191 residents have completed quarantine. Of those, 11,675 had tested positive and recovered. That is an increase of 214 recoveries since yesterday.
There were 10 new hospitalizations overnight, and there are 149 county residents currently hospitalized from the virus. There are now 12 patients in intensive-care units, down from 15 yesterday.
Among the state’s 10 regions, the Capital Region and Long Island have the lowest rate of ICU beds available, at 18 percent, according to a release from the governor’s office. Currently, the Capital Region has 203 COVID-19 patients occupying UCU 257 beds. Statewide, 27 percent of ICU beds are available.
Ther Capital Region has the worst rate for available hospital beds, at 23 percent. Currently 522 Capital Region residents are hospitalized with the virus, which is 0.05 percent of the region’s population.
Statewide, 0.04 percent of New Yorkers are hospitalized with COVID-19, leaving 31 percent of the state’s hospital beds available.
The Capital Region infection rate, as a seven-day average, is 9.53 percent. Statewide, the positivity rate is 7.70 percent.