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NY begins research on highly contagious COVID-19 strain


Moses Kuwema

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that Wadsworth Laboratory has begun aggressive research of the new, highly contagious COVID-19 strain that has been discovered in the United Kingdom. 

Already, Wadsworth has looked at more than 3,700 virus sequences identified in New York, but has yet to find the U.K. variant present in any of the samples. 

Additionally, Wadsworth and the Department of Health have forged agreements with six hospitals from across the State to obtain additional samples and is continuing to make arrangements with other hospitals to do the same. 

Those hospitals with agreements already in place include: Montefiore, Memorial Sloan Kettering, Northwell Long Island, University of Rochester, Albany Medical Center and Saratoga Hospital.

The Governor also announced that to date, 50,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered throughout New York. 

The state has received 630,000 doses thus far and expects to receive another 300,000 doses next week. 

With Christmas and Kwanzaa rapidly approaching, the Governor also called on hospitals, nursing homes, and medical personnel to continue providing vaccinations throughout the holidays to ensure nursing home patients and front line health care workers are protected as quickly as possible.

"The U.K. variant is a real issue – not only is it believed to be 70 percent more contagious than previous strains, but there is a very real chance it is already here. Upon learning of this new variant, we immediately worked with airlines to ensure that anyone getting on a plane from the U.K. bound for New York tests negative, but we need federal action and we need it now," Governor Cuomo said.

"We know that the virus originally got on a plane and came to New York from Europe in the spring. It's inexcusable that the federal government has failed to learn that lesson and we need them to do the smart thing and institute testing requirements for travelers entering the United States from any country. 

"In the meantime, it's on the rest of us to be smart and continue fighting to stop the spread. Just remember — celebrating smart stops shutdowns. So as everyone prepares to celebrate the holidays, do your part and socially distance, wear a mask and wash your hands."

And Governor Cuomo said out of the 164,868 COVID-19 test results reported Wednesday in the State, 9,716 tested positive representing a 5.89 percent positive rate.

Patient hospitalization stood at 6,661 (+330) while the number of patients newly admitted was 801. 

Hospital counties had 55, while the number of ICU was 1,126 (+31), number of ICU with intubation was 614 (+1). Total discharges stood at 96,185 (+406), with 139 deaths recorded while the total number of deaths thus far stands at 28,850.

And speaking during his daily briefing at City Hall Tuesday, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio said the city recorded 193 new hospitalizations with 2,889 new cases representing a 5.88 percent positivity rate (seven-day average).

"Keep up the fight. We need every New Yorker to be a part of driving numbers back down. The COVID-19 vaccine is the miracle so many have waited and worked for, and will end the pandemic. Get this shot of hope and help set our city free. 

"Our new vaccine for all campaign will help spread the word that the vaccine is safe, effective and free," said Mayor De Blasio.

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