URMC tapped as 1 of 5 labs statewide to monitor, identify COVID-19 variant strains

Coronavirus

(News 8 WROC file photo)

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — An additional five laboratories will help New York state identify and monitor COVID-19 variant strains, including one in Rochester, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday.

The New York State Department of Health (DOH) is partnering with labs at SUNY Upstate Medical University, Cornell University, the University at Buffalo, the University of Rochester Medical Center, and New York Medical College, made possible by $20 million received from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention program.

“New York is once again leading the way by using every tool at our disposal to beat this virus and expanding monitoring for these emerging variants will help us remain ahead of the pandemic as more New Yorkers become fully vaccinated,” Gov. Cuomo said. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the importance of whole-genome sequencing in identifying variants of concern that are continuously monitored by the Wadsworth Center as an integral part of our public health response,” said DOH Commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker. “We are pleased to announce this new partnership that will expand this surveillance ability statewide and assist in ongoing COVID-19 pandemic response efforts. “

The state said this will help monitor the rise of variants and the continued effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines against them. It will also allow them to identify any variants that are a cause for public health concern.

Previously, only the Wadsworth Lab in Albany was analyzing state data for variant strains and samples in New York. Sample analysis often took up to six weeks for results to be collected. The additional labs being brought online is expected to expedite that process.

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