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More cases of COVID-19 strain first identified in U.K. found in New York

New COVID-19 strain appears in New York
New COVID-19 strain appears in New York 08:40

Three additional cases of the COVID-19 strain first found in the United Kingdom have been identified in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday.  

"The UK strain is here, it is real, and the Usain Bolt-like speed through which it spreads is nothing short of frightening," Governor Cuomo said. "There's no mystery as to how it got here — it got on a plane and flew here from Europe, just like the original strain did."

A total of four cases have now been identified in New York. The state's first confirmed case of the more contagious new strain was detected in a Saratoga Springs man who had no known travel history, Cuomo said. Two of the new cases are related to the Saratoga case, but a third, unrelated case, was identified in Massapequa in Nassau County. 

The state's health department is now working with contact tracers in the county to identify more possible exposures.

The strain first surfaced in the United Kingdom and has since shown up in multiple states, including ColoradoCalifornia and Florida.

Cuomo criticized the federal government's response to the pandemic in announcing the new cases. "The federal government continues to refuse to learn from the spring and mandate testing for all international travelers," he said. "Their failure to act means the rest of us need to be that much more vigilant in our work to stop the spread, as well as do all we can to accelerate the distribution of the vaccine."

The U.S. topped 4,000 daily deaths from the coronavirus for the first time on Thursday, breaking a record set just one day earlier. A tally from Johns Hopkins University shows more than 370,000 Americans have now died from the coronavirus since the pandemic began.

The new strain has been prioritized at New York testing sites, and the state's Wadsworth Laboratory has analyzed more than 2,200 viral sequences as part of its "UK strain testing program," according to the governor. The Department of Health conducted free COVID-19 tests for over 400 people this week looking for anyone who may have had an exposure related to the original Saratoga case.

"Wadsworth Lab will continue to aggressively sequence samples from around the state, so that any more instances of the UK strain can be identified, and immediately contained and contact traced," Cuomo said.

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