Nassau County resident has South African variant of COVID-19

ALBANY COUNTY — The first New Yorker known to have the South African variant of COVID-19 — a resident of Nassau County — was announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Sunday.

The sequencing was conducted at Opentrons Labworks Inc.’s Pandemic Response Lab, a commercial lab based in New York City, and verified at the Wadsworth Center in Albany, according to a release from the governor’s office.

Last week, Cuomo announced that a Connecticut resident who had been hospitalized in New York City for a procedure was found to have the South African variant.

This variant, known as B.1.351, was first identified in the United States in January, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This variant was first identified in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, in samples dating back to the beginning of October 2020,” reports the CDC, and also says, “Currently there is no evidence to suggest that this variant has any impact on disease severity.”

Of the potential consequences of emerging variants, the CDC says the ability to evade vaccine-induced immunity “would likely be the most concerning because once a large proportion of the population is vaccinated, there will be immune pressure that could favor and accelerate emergence of such variants by selecting for ‘escape mutants.’”

However, the report goes on, “There is no evidence that this is occurring, and most experts believe escape mutants are unlikely to emerge because of the nature of the virus.”

According to a CDC webpage reporting variants for COVID-19 in the United States, as of Sunday evening, there are 22 cases of B.1.351 in the nation across 10 states.

“With the discovery of a case of the South African variant in the state,” Cuomo said in a statement, “it’s more important than ever for New Yorkers to stay vigilant, wear masks, wash hands, and stay socially distanced. 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.”

New York State is in its 10th week of receiving vaccine doses from the federal government — shipments this week have been delayed by winter storms — and so far has received 3.7 million.

The Capital Region this week has administered 208,491 of the 235,880 doses it has received, which is 88 percent.

Statewide, 89 percent of received doses have been administered this week, as of sunday morning,according to a release from the governor’s office.

More Regional News

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  • Originally, scientists thought that the B.1.17 variant, while more transmissible, was not more severe. Recently, however, British scientists have reported “updated and additional analyses, which together strengthen the earlier finding of increased disease severity in people infected with VOC B.1.1.7 compared to other virus variants.”

  • The state and federal governments together have opened mass vaccination sites for Black and brown communities, which have disproportionately been hurt by the pandemic. One of those sites is at the Washington Avenue Armory in Albany. Appointments begin on March 3 for residents of these ZIP codes: 12202, 12206, 12207, 12209, and 12210.

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