BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — Broome County has its first confirmed case of the so-called U.K. COVID-19 variant.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the strain originating in the United Kingdom spreads more quickly from one person to another. They said it is likely to be the dominant mutation of the virus in the U.S. by March.
The U.K. variant is one of three mutations of concern originating overseas that has appeared in the U.S. Another was seen first in Brazil and the third in South Africa. Researchers in Louisiana recently identified a mutation in the U.S. that seems to have emerged completely independently at least seven times.
On Wednesday, Broome County officials confirmed the person who tested positive for the strain is a Broome County resident, but would not give any other identifying information.
In a document posted online by the British government on Friday, scientists wrote that the the infection caused by the U.K. variant is “associated with an increased risk of hospitalisation and death” compared to other strains of COVID-19.
Rebecca Kaufman, Director of the Broome County Health Department, said the variant was probably already moving through the county. She added it was more a matter of when it would be confirmed. Cases of the variant were reported in Tompkins County in January and earlier this month.
“We’ve known that Tompkins County has had the variant for some time, so we had assumed that it had been here in Broome, but today is the first time that we found confirmation,” Kaufman said during a media briefing on Wednesday.
She also said the positive case was part of a sample chosen at random to be tested in the state’s Wadsworth Lab in Albany. Researchers there are working to identify variants of the coronavirus in counties across the state.
The U.K. variant has been detected in over 70 countries and in 33 states.
Kaufman emphasized that residents should continue wearing masks and social distancing, even as vaccine rollout ramps up.
According to Broome County Executive Jason Garnar, there are more than 500 active cases of COVID-19 countywide. As of Wednesday, 300 residents have died.