New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday a newstrain that was detected in the state after it was last month "could be a game changer." He called it "highly problematic."
"This is a virus we have to be extra careful with," the governor said at a press conference.
The state's first confirmed diagnosis of the contagious new strain was detected in Saratoga Springs. The man who tested positive is affiliated with a jewelry store there, CBS New York reported. The person had no known travel history, Cuomo said.
The governor urged anyone who was exposed, or who was exposed to someone who was exposed, to contact state officials. "There's nothing to be ashamed of," he said. "This is a virus that travels. But we have to know. Containment is vitally important here."
Experts say there's no evidence the new strain is resistant to the vaccines and the infections are no more severe. But the governor said this week since it is more transmissible it could lead to more cases and more hospitalizations.
"Even if the lethality doesn't go up, the fact that it is so much more transmittable is a very real problem," he said.
"Apparently the U.K. strain can actually overtake the original COVID strain in a matter of weeks," he said Tuesday. "That's how quickly it can transmit."
"It dramatically increases our challenge and we have to be aware of it," he said.
In late December, Colorado became the first state to confirm a case of the variant, in a man in his 20s with no travel history. Southern California reported a case soon after in a 30-year-old man with no travel history, and public health officials in Florida said they had also discovered evidence of a case in a man in his 20s with no travel history.