ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10/WROC/WWTI) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a conference call with media on Monday. He announced that the Wadsworth lab confirmed a local case of the COVID-19 variant first identified in the U.K.
“Wadsworth lab confirmed a case of the U.K. strain in Saratoga County,” Cuomo said. “He’s a man in his 60s who had some symptoms. He did not travel recently, so evidence suggests it’s in the community.”
According to Cuomo, the individual who tested positive for the U.K. strain of COVID-19—B117—is affiliated with a jewelry store in Saratoga County, N. Fox Jewelers, located on Broadway. The store remains open, and the state is asking all customers who visited the store from December 18 through December 24 to be tested for COVID-19.
“As it is a retail establishment we need the cooperation of the public,” Cuomo said.
The governor said three other people have tested positive after being exposed to the person. The state’s uncertain at this time if they’re also infected with the UK COVID-19 strain.
“From a public health point of view now it’s about contact tracing,” Cuomo said.
Saratoga County Health Department is giving free tests to customers who were at the shop from December 18 to 24.
Testing for patrons will occur at Saratoga State Park, 99 E. West Road, Saratoga Springs, at the following dates and times:
- Tuesday, January 5, from 1:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
- Wednesday, January 6, from 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
- Thursday, January 7, from 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
- Friday, January 8, from 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
The jewelry store was open on Monday. Not only were people shopping, but an employee told NEWS10 ABC it wasn’t until the governor made the announcement that she heard there was a possible exposure.
Monday’s news comes as Saratoga County picks its next chairman of the County Board of Supervisors. Saratoga Springs Supervisor Tara Gaston said that position is now more important than ever.
“Whatever chairman is elected on Wednesday, they’re going to have a very significant role in responding to COVID and recovering from it,” Gaston said.
Because the infected person did not travel, Governor Cuomo suggested the strain is already in the community.
The UK B117 COVID-19 strain, according to Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, is more transmittable. The governor said this strain is 70% more contagious than the original COVID-19 strain and he said contact tracing is paramount to keep the spread of the strain under control.
“It’s about contact tracing,” shared the Governor. “We want to make sure we’re doing everything we can. We need the community’s help.”
Wadsworth Laboratory, based in Albany, began research into a new strain of COVID-19, which was first spotted in the United Kingdom, in late December.
“I think this strain is more prevalent than people know,” Cuomo said.
New York State Public Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said this strain is more transmissible, but there’s no evidence yet that it isn’t affected by vaccines, or that it is more dangerous for people who are infected.
It was the second update of the day from the governor, following a Monday morning briefing where he provided new statewide numbers regarding the pandemic and declared the Finger Lakes region is the state’s “greatest problem” at present.
On day 310 of the pandemic in New York, the governor provided the following data:
- 134,360 COVID-19 tests processed statewide Sunday
- 8.34% positivity rate overall statewide
- 9.85% positivity rate in micro-cluster hotspots
- 7.78% positivity rate outside micro-cluster hotspots
- 170 new COVID-19 deaths statewide Sunday
- 8,251 hospitalizations
- 1,357 in ICU
- 843 intubations
*A previous version of this story misidentified the infected patient as the owner of N Fox Jewelers. NEWS10 regrets the error, as the specific affiliation between the patient and the store has not been verified.