Two cases of the U.K. variant of the coronavirus have been identified in Suffolk County, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday.

The Suffolk cases were among four new cases identified by the state’s laboratory. The other two were identified in Saratoga County and and Warren County. New York’s first case of the U.K. strain was identified early this month in Saratoga County.

These newly identified cases bring the total number of known cases of the U.K. variant in New York to 22. Two of those known cases were previously identified in Nassau County.

The U.K. strain of the virus, is a more contagious variant of the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Known as B.1.1.7, the variant emerged last month, and the rapid transmissibility of the variant alarmed health officials in the United Kingdom and prompted Prime Minister Boris Johnson to implement new national lockdowns. The surging virus has since strained hospitals in the U.K.

U.S. public health officials have been monitoring the spread of the U.K. variant of the coronavirus, which they say is believed to be 50% more contagious.

The CDC said last week the U.K. variant can be expected to become the predominant strain of the virus in the U.S. sometime in March.

“Right now, we are in a footrace between how quickly we distribute the vaccine and how quickly the infection is spreading,” Cuomo said yesterday afternoon during a news briefing.

“The good news — the infection rate is a function of people’s behavior and right now it’s on the decline, meaning New Yorkers are acting responsibly,” he said.

“The bad news — not only is the federal vaccine supply not keeping up with our ability to administer it, but we are continuing to see new instances of the U.K. strain, which is much more transmissible,” Cuomo said.

The U.K. variant is not believed to cause more serious illness than the virus that has swept across the globe since it was first detected in China in December 2019. It has since infected nearly 97 million people worldwide and caused more than 2 million deaths, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. In the U.S., which leads the world in both infections and deaths, the virus has infected 24,135 690 people and killed 400,306 people, according to the CDC.

The state’s Wadsworth Lab is continuously testing for other COVID-19 virus strains and so far, no other variants besides the U.K. strain have been found in New York, Cuomo said yesterday.

Statewide, the testing positivity rate declined to 6.8% Monday. The virus is spreading more slowly in New York, but the number of new cases per 100,000 population — 76.5 — is still at a dangerous level.

Currently, only South Carolina (97 per 100,000), Arizona (92.8 per 100,000) and California (92.3 per 100,000) have more severe outbreaks than New York. Nationally, the number of new cases is 60 per 100,000.

In Suffolk, new cases are 110.5 per 100,000. In Nassau, new cases are 99.7 per 100,000.

There were 1,224 new cases reported in Suffolk Monday and 1,096 reported in Nassau. The Long Island region’s testing positivity rate was 7.6% Monday. It was 7.9% in Suffolk.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.