ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the first confirmed case of COVID-19 variant strain first discovered in the United Kingdom, believed to be 70% more contagious than the original strain.

The governor made the announcement on a Monday afternoon conference call with media.

“Wadsworth lab confirmed a case of the U.K. strain in Saratoga County, New York,” Gov. Cuomo said.. “He’s a man in his 60s who had some symptoms. He did not travel recently so evidence suggests it’s in the community.”

MORE | Gov. Cuomo: New COVID-19 strain found in United Kingdom is ‘very concerning’

According to the governor, the infected individual was a man in his 60’s works at a jewelry store in Saratoga County of the Capital Region. The governor said the store has been closed since December 21, 2020, but the state is asking all customers who visited the store from December 18 through December 21 to be tested for COVID-19.

The governor said this strain, known formally as the UK B117 COVID-19 strain, is 70% more contagious than the original COVID-19 strain and he said contact tracing is paramount to keep the spread of the strain under control.

“It’s about contact tracing,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We want to make sure we’re doing everything we can. We need the community’s help.”

Wadsworth Laboratory, based in Albany, began research into a new strain of COVID-19, which was first spotted in the United Kingdom, in late December.

“I think this strain is more prevalent than people know,” Gov. Cuomo said.

New York State Public Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said this strain is believed to be more transmissible, but there’s no evidence yet that it isn’t affected by vaccines, or that it is more dangerous for people who become infected.

The governor said the new strain might not pose more severe symptoms to an individual, but it could lead to more problems from a volume scale perspective if it’s truly 70% more contagious.

“For us, increased positivity is a problem, but increased hospitalization is a game-changer. If hospital capacity is threatened in a region, than that region would have to shut down,” Gov. Cuomo said.

It was the second update of the day from the governor, following a Monday morning briefing where he provided new statewide numbers regarding the pandemic and declared the Finger Lakes region is the state’s “greatest problem” at present.

MORE | Gov. Cuomo: ‘Right now the greatest problem is the Finger Lakes’

On day 310 of the pandemic in New York, the governor provided the following data:

  • 134,360 COVID-19 tests processed statewide Sunday
  • 8.34% positivity rate overall statewide
  • 9.85% positivity rate in micro-cluster hotspots
  • 7.78% positivity rate outside micro-cluster hotspots
  • 170 new COVID-19 deaths statewide Sunday
  • 8,251 hospitalizations
  • 1,357 in ICU
  • 843 intubations

The regional hospital bed capacity and occupancy numbers, including the number of hospitalizations as a percent of the region’s population, is as follows:

RegionCOVID Patients Currently in Hospital in RegionCOVID Patients as Percent of Region PopulationPercent of Hospital Beds Currently Available in RegionPercent of Hospital Beds Available Within 7 Days Under Surge Plan
Capital Region4680.04%22%32%
Central New York4000.05%20%31%
Finger Lakes9300.08%30%31%
Long Island15060.05%24%36%
Mohawk Valley2990.06%22%33%
New York City28840.03%31%39%
North Country820.02%35%59%
Southern Tier2090.03%42%52%
Western New York5310.04%30%33%

The regional ICU bed capacity and occupancy numbers are as follows:

RegionTotal ICU Beds in RegionTotal Occupied ICU Beds in RegionPercent of ICU Beds Available in Region (7-Day Average)
Capital Region22819416%
Central New York26620125%
Finger Lakes39730526%
Long Island81964423%
Mohawk Valley12710121%
New York City2467177228%
North Country583536%
Southern Tier1258036%
Western New York54533038%
NYS TOTAL5716406129%

Each region’s 7-day average percentage of positive test results reported over the last three days is as follows:

Capital Region9.82%10.11%9.91%
Central New York8.70%8.90%9.30%
Finger Lakes10.03%10.35%10.22%
Long Island8.82%9.11%9.31%
Mohawk Valley10.02%10.40%10.38%
New York City6.17%6.24%6.24%
North Country8.28%8.77%9.02%
Southern Tier5.72%6.42%5.77%
Western New York7.95%8.43%8.43%

Watch the full briefing:

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.