NEW YORK — A man in upstate New York tested positive for the new strain of COVID-19 that was first discovered in the United Kingdom, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.
The man, who is in his 60s, is affiliated with N. Fox Jewelers in Saratoga, Cuomo said. He did not travel recently, so the virus variant is likely being spread within the community, the governor suggested.
“I think it is much more widespread than people know,” Cuomo said during a phone briefing.
It’s the first known case of the new strain in New York out of about 5,000 tests conducted for this specific variant, according to the governor.
The man was symptomatic but is now “on the mend,” Cuomo said.
Three additional people who work at the same jewelry store as the man are also sick. It’s not clear yet whether they also have the new strain.
The jewelry store has been closed since Christmas Eve. Cuomo urged anyone who visited the jewelry store between Dec. 18 and Dec. 24 to contact the state Health Department and get tested immediately.
“From a public health point of view now, it’s about contact tracing,” the governor said. “We want to make sure we’re doing everything we can do to effective contact tracing on this case.”
Health experts say the variant is no more dangerous than the original virus but it appears to be more contagious. Scientists have suggested it could be as much as 70% more infectious than the original COVID strain.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday a new national lockdown for England until at least mid-February to combat the fast-spreading new version of the virus. He said hospitals are under more pressure from COVID than at any time since the start of the pandemic.
While the variant was first detected in the U.K. this past fall, it has since been found in parts of the United States. Health officials in Colorado and California confirmed cases of the new strain in December.
Cuomo began sounding the alarm about the new virus strain last month. He called on airlines that provide service from the United Kingdom to New York to institute a COVID-19 testing mandate for travelers and launched a testing program to detect the new strain.
This story comprises reporting from The Associated Press.