ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — There is a confirmed case of the United Kingdom COVID-19 variant strain in Ontario County.
That’s according to Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza, who provided the update during Thursday’s weekly coronavirus briefing.
Kate Ott, Deputy Public Health Director for Ontario County, says the UK case is not new. Ott says the variant was found through the New York State Department of Health random surveillance program where samples of confirmed cases are analyzed to see if the strain is a possible variant.
Ott says Ontario County found out about the UK case this week, but that it was from an old case where the contact tracing was completed, the person had recovered, and the individual was out of isolation before mid-February.
Ott says there are no individuals currently in isolation with a confirmed UK case, but added that the vast majority of positive samples are not being tested specifically for the strain and that it’s all done through the state’s random surveillance program.
The deputy health director says it’s not unexpected to have a variant strain in the county, and officials expect more than one case. She says it doesn’t change what they’re doing in terms of precautions and following safety protocol.
Dr. Mendoza said the finding wasn’t surprising.
“It’s no surprise — I would be surprised if the U.K. strain isn’t already here in Monroe County, so my advice is, it’s here,” Dr. Mendoza said. “It’s no surprise, we just have to take our precautions.”
Dr. Mendoza said the best way to counteract the variant strains is to use the same everyday precautions that have become commonplace over the past 11 months: Wear a mask, maintain social distance, and wash your hands.
“We’re watching this very closely,” Dr. Mendoza said. “I think this is the reason why you need to go back and remember that behavior matters, wearing your mask matters, staying away from large gatherings matters, and that getting the vaccine matters — because all of the evidence suggests that these vaccines are effective against these variants.”
In New York state, the Wadsworth Lab near Albany regularly tests COVID-19 samples for the presence of variant strains. There have been dozens of confirmed variant cases in the Capital Region, and downstate — including the South African strain on Long Island — but none confirmed so far in Monroe County.
U.K. government scientific advisers say the COVID-19 variant, now the predominant in strain in the country, may be up to 70% more deadly than previous variants, underscoring concerns about how mutations may change the characteristics of the disease.
University of Rochester Medical Center and Rochester Regional Health are participating in a new clinical trial that evaluates the safety and efficacy of a third dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine is currently approved for two-dose administration, and officials say this study represents a development of long-term vaccination strategies to protect against new strains of the virus.
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.