NEW YORK (AP) — The first case of a COVID-19 variant known as the Brazilian variant was confirmed in New York.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that scientists at Mount Sinai Hospital identified the case, which was then verified by the state Department of Health's Wadsworth Center Laboratories.
The patient is a Brooklyn resident in their 90s who hasn’t traveled recently, officials said in a news release. Health officials are doing further investigation of the patient and any potential contacts.
“This is a race between the vaccine and the variants, and we continue to make tremendous progress of getting shots in the arms of eligible New Yorkers,” state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a statement Saturday. "In the meantime we remind New Yorkers to do everything they can to protect themselves and their neighbors as we continue to manage this pandemic.”
The Brazilian variant was first detected in the U.S. in January, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported nearly 50 confirmed cases nationwide.
The variant has been considered potentially more severe than earlier variants and possibly more resistant to current vaccines, though some recent research has indicated it may not be as resistant to the vaccines as initially thought.
Two weeks ago, state health officials said a different variant that first appeared in the New York City area in late November was accounting for roughly 2 in 5 cases in the city.
That suggested the possibility that it was spreading more easily than the older strain of the virus, but city health officials said they’d seen no evidence that the New York City variant was deadlier or more vaccine resistant than earlier forms of the virus.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday that the emergence of the Brazilian variant in New York points to the need to spend federal dollars on public service campaigns to build trust in vaccinations.
“With the first new case of the contagious COVID variant from Brazil, it is more urgent than ever that we launch an all-out public, vaccine education blitz and get millions more shots in arms,” the New York Democrat said at a Manhattan news conference.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday that 25.7% of New Yorkers have received at least one vaccine dose since the state's vaccination effort began, and 13.2% have been fully vaccinated.
“We have achieved remarkable progress, but we need to stay vigilant and determined as more we open more sectors of our economy,” the Democrat said in a news release.
Cuomo announced a slight change in the state's vaccination rules on Sunday. Pharmacies, which previously were allowed to provide shots only to people over 60 and teachers, can now vaccinate people under 60 who qualify for the inoculations because of certain health conditions.
This story has been updated to correct that the health commissioner's statement was put out on Saturday, not Sunday.