New York testing to detect new strain of COVID-19

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New York hospitals have been asked to start testing for the new strain of COVID-19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters Tuesday.

The request comes a day after the governor secured commitments from the three airlines that provide service from London, where the variant is known to be located. British officials have reported that the new strain can spread easier, which has led to Prime Minister Boris Johnson implementing tighter restrictions in parts of England.

“If the variant is here, I want to know because that would be problematic,” he said.

While the test for that strain is more complex, the governor said the state’s leading hospital systems can handle processing those and regular COVID-19 test. The state will provide the testing supplies and reagents, he added, to any hospital that has the capacity to conduct them.

Hospitals and systems working with the new test include Montefiore Health, Memorial Sloan Kettering, Northwell Health, University of Rochester, Albany Medical Center and the Greater New York Hospital Association. The New York State Department of Health laboratory at Wadsworth is coordinating the tests.

Cuomo though would not say if he’d shut down a cluster or larger area if or when a case is discovered.

“If it is here, I want to know exactly where it is, and contact trace immediately from that point back, and then isolate it immediately,” he said. “This is about time and urgency, and this would be urgent.”

Testing for the new variant would not take away from ongoing testing efforts, according to the governor. He said it would happen above and beyond what’s already happening, and it would not delay turnaround times for residents to get test results.

In the past, Cuomo has touted that no other state conducts as many tests as New York.

Regarding tests for the new strain, the governor said hospitals have already conducted 4,000 tests. Those were a random sample of the other tests they were conducting.

So far, no tests have come back positive.

“But it only takes one,” Cuomo said.

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