(The Center Square) – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday afternoon that the Department of Health has identified the first case of a more-transmissible strain of the COVID-19 virus in the state.
The governor said the infected person was a man in his 60s who is associated with N. Fox, a jewelry store in Saratoga Springs in upstate New York. While the store has been closed since Christmas Eve through Monday, the governor urged anyone who visited the store on or after Dec. 18 to get tested.
“He was symptomatic, but he’s on the mend and he’s doing better,” Cuomo said. “He did not travel recently. So, this suggests that it was community spread.”
New York becomes the fourth state along with California, Colorado and Florida to detect a positive case of the strain first located in the United Kingdom. While it is more transmissible, state officials said there’s no proof the new strain is deadlier or resistant to vaccines.
However, the more infectious nature of the strain could lead to more people being hospitalized, which Cuomo labeled as a significant concern.
“If hospital capacity is threatened in a region, then that region would have to close down,” the governor said, referring to comments he’s made previously regarding more restrictions for communities if hospitals forecast that they will reach 85 percent capacity within three weeks.
Earlier in the day, Cuomo vented some frustrations as he reported some hospitals were having an easier time than others in administering their allocations of vaccines. While several medical facilities have reported dispensing of 87 percent or more of their allocations, others have yet to crack 33 percent.
Effective Monday, hospitals can face fines of $100,000 if they fail to utilize their vaccine allocation within seven days. Besides the fine, they also risk losing out on future disbursements.
“We have almost 200 hospitals,” he said. “If one hospital isn’t performing, we can use other hospitals.”
The governor also told reporters that the state would now intervene in a federal government program for administering vaccines to nursing home populations. Last month, the state agreed to let federally contracted pharmacies vaccinate residents and staff, but as is the case with certain hospitals, Cuomo said he’s not happy with the initial results.
Of the 611 nursing homes statewide, only 288 of them have completely received the first dose of the vaccine. With the state’s help, Cuomo said an additional 234 nursing homes will be covered this week. That’ll get coverage up to about 85 percent.
“The nursing homes have always been the most vulnerable populations, and we want to get that done and we want to get that done quickly,” he said.