The more contagious UK variant of COVID-19 has been found in New York

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty
  • A man living in upstate New York has tested positive for a new variant of the coronavirus that is believed to be more contagious.
  • The new variant was first detected in the UK last month and was found in Colorado, Florida, and Southern California last week.
  • The variant has been reported in at least 33 countries to date.
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The new, likely more contagious variant of the coronavirus has reached New York state, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

A Saratoga County man in his 60s tested positive for the new variant, Cuomo said in a statement. The variant known as B117 was first detected in the UK in December.

The Saratoga man had no recent history of travel, Cuomo said. That means he likely contracted the virus through community spread.

While the new variant is more contagious than the virus that has circulated in the US so far, it does not appear to be more deadly or resistant to existing vaccines. A study by Public Health England compared 1,769 people infected with the B117 variant against 1,769 people with the original, “wild-type” virus and found no significant differences in hospitalisation or death rates.

However, an increase in cases associated with the new variant has sent the UK into lockdown again. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Monday that England will go into a full national lockdown, with schools remaining closed and people required to stay at home through mid-Feburary.

That’s because the B117 variant could cause a massive increase in deaths based on its transmissibility alone, a preliminary analysis from Imperial College, London, showed. The study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, also found the variant continued to spread even when the government ramped up lockdown efforts in the UK.

The new variant was first found in the US when it reached Colorado last week, and has since been discovered in California and Florida as well.

At least 33 countries across six continents have reported cases of the new variant to date.