New York State has confirmed the presence of the South African COVID-19 variant in a Long Island resident, the first lab-confirmed case in the state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday.
The variant was detected in a person living in Nassau County and announced one week after the tri-state's first case was found in a Connecticut resident who was hospitalized in New York City. State and county officials did not provide additional details related to ongoing contract tracing or potential exposure risk of the Nassau County case.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran echoed the words of top health officials who say the variants are not believed to be more deadly than the original strain of the virus but they are more contagious.
"The best response is to continue the tried and true precautions: wearing masks, avoid social gatherings, distancing, staying home and getting tested when sick," Curran said Sunday.
The B.1.351 strain of the virus was first detected in South Africa in October 2020 and was first discovered in the United States at the end of January 2021. The CDC has said that preliminary evidence from non-peer-reviewed publications suggests that the Moderna vaccine "may be less effective" against the South Africa variant. It has cautioned that more studies are needed.
The tri-state's first case of the B.1.351 variant was found in a Fairfield County resident between the ages of 60 and 70 who had not traveled recently. With the discovery of the new variant, as well as over 150 confirmed cases in the tri-state of the B.1.1.7 variant that was first detected in the U.K., health officials urge residents to continue vigilance.
"We are in a race right now - between our ability to vaccinate and these variants which are actively trying to proliferate - and we will only win that race if we stay smart and disciplined," Cuomo said in a statement.
The three main variants of interest -- the U.K., South African and Brazilian strains -- have all extended their reach across the U.S. in recent weeks. The U.K. strain, which the CDC has warned could predominate in America by next month, is by far the most prevalent to date, with more than 1,500 detected cases in 42 states.
New York accounts for 82 of those, with 11 of the newest 12 reported last week coming from New York City, while New Jersey has confirmed at least 50 U.K. strain cases and Connecticut has found 42 -- while no cases of the Brazilian variant have been found (yet) in the tri-state.
The news of variant detection in the state comes as numbers related to hospitalizations and positivity continue to decline following New York's holiday surge. As of Sunday, Cuomo said the state's single-day positivity dropped below 3 percent.
Cuomo said 75 New Yorkers died from the virus on Saturday, the second day in a row the state's reported deaths under 100. The number of New Yorkers hospitalized from the virus has also declined in recent weeks, dropping below 6,000 for the first time since mid-December.