Infectious variants of the coronavirus now make up more than half of new COVID-19 cases in New York City — and the majority of them are the city’s homegrown strain, Big Apple officials said Wednesday.
The homegrown strain that has emerged in New York City, called B.1.526, and the highly contagious UK variant, known as B.1.1.7, together currently account for 51 percent of all new coronavirus cases across the city, Dr. Jay Varma, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s senior adviser for public health, said during a City Hall press briefing.
The New York City variant represents 39 percent of samples tested, added Dr. Dave Chokshi, commissioner of the city Department of Health, noted.
“Unfortunately, we have found that the new variants of COVID-19 are continuing to spread,” Varma said, explaining that the city health officials “learned a lot in the past week about the situation of variants in New York City.”
Preliminary analysis shows the homegrown variant “is probably more infectious than older strains” of the coronavirus, Varma said.
It may be “similar” in infectiousness to the UK variant, “but we’re not certain about this yet,” said Varma.
Officials said that though the variants appear to be more infectious, they have not been found to be more deadly.
“Our preliminary analysis does not show this new strain causes more severe illness or reduces the effectiveness of vaccines,” Varma said.
De Blasio added, “So far thank God, what we’re finding is the variants are not posing the worst kind of problems we might fear.”
“What we are seeing is variants that are more infectious and therefore spread disease more,” the mayor said.
Health officials said the best way to fight back against the variants is to continue to practice the coronavirus safety protocols already in place– like face mask-wearing, hand-washing, getting tested for COVID-19, keeping a safe distance from others, and getting vaccinated when eligible.