UK COVID variant identified in Saratoga Springs

— Photo from Google

A 60-year-old man at N. Fox Jewelers in Saratoga Springs has the state’s first confirmed U.K. variant of COVID-19. People who visited the store between Dec. 18 and 24 are being asked to get tested.

The highly transmissible variant of COVID-19 discovered in the United Kingdom has been confirmed in upstate New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a phone call with reporters on Monday afternoon.

A man in his sixties contracted the variant and “appears to be on the mend ...,” said Cuomo. “He did not travel recently, so this suggests that it’s in the community; it was community spread as opposed to having traveled to the UK.”

His case is associated with N. Fox Jewelers, located in the heart of Saratoga Springs, at 404 Broadway.

There are three other cases of COVID-19 in the jewelry store, Cuomo said, which may or may not be of the U.K. variant, which is called B.1.1.7.

While the UK variant is thought to be 70 percent more transmissible, it does not cause more severe symptoms and it is not more deadly, according to Howard Zucker, the state’s health commissioner. 

The state’s Wadsworth Laboratory in Albany has tested about 5,000 samples of COVID-19 from across the state, looking for the variant. “This is the first we’ve found,” said Cuomo.

Wadsworth is currently testing samples from the three other COVID-19 cases related to the jewelry story, Cuomo said.

N. Fox Jewelers was closed from Dec. 24 until Monday, Jan. 4. People who shopped there between Dec. 18 and 24 are being asked to get tested.

“It’s about contact tracing ...,” said Cuomo. “We need the cooperation of the public.”

He noted that the UK variant has been found in 33 countries; in the United States, there have been cases confirmed in Colorado, California, and Florida. 

Cuomo said it is possible that the increased infection rate in the Capital Region and elsewhere across the country could be due to the U.K. variant since it is more transmissible, which could lead not just to more infections but to more hospitalizations.

“Increased hospitalization rate is a game-changer …,” said Cuomo. “Then that region would have to close down.”

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