New York state confirmed its first case of the P.1 coronavirus variant, which was first identified in Brazil and is now the dominant variant there, according to The New York Times.
Public health officials have been concerned about the highly contagious nature of the variant, particularly because it has reinfected some people who have already recovered from COVID-19.
“The detection of the Brazilian variant here in New York further underscores the importance of taking all the appropriate steps to continue to protect your health,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement on Saturday.
“While it’s normal for a virus to mutate, the best way to protect yourself is to continue to wear a well-fitted mask, avoid large crowds, social distance, wash your hands, and get vaccinated when it’s your turn,” he said.
The first P.1 case in New York was identified at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. The patient is a 90-year-old Brooklyn resident with no travel history.
The U.S. has reported 54 cases of the P.1 variant across 18 states, according to the latest CDC tally updated on Sunday. Florida has reported the most of any state, with 21 cases. P.1 has also been found in at least 25 other countries, The Times reported.
The P.1 variant shares similar mutations with the B.1.351 variant that was first identified in South Africa and is now dominant in that country. The U.S. has reported 194 cases of B.1.351 across 27 states.
In addition, the U.S. has identified 6,390 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant that was first identified in the U.K., which could become the dominant form in the U.S. this spring.
Health officials are trying to ramp up vaccinations as coronavirus variants spread. The vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna protect against the B.1.351 variant, the newspaper reported, but are slightly less effective. They are expected to have similar results against the P.1 variant.
The U.S. has shipped 156 million doses of COVID-19 vaccinees, and 81.4 million people have received at least one dose, according to the latest CDC update on Sunday. More than 44 million people — or 13% of the population — have received both doses. In New York, at least 25% of the population has received at least one dose.
“This is a race between the vaccine and the variants, and we continue to make tremendous progress of getting shots in the arms of eligible New Yorkers,” Howard Zucker, MD, the New York state health commissioner, said in the statement.
“In the meantime, we remind New Yorkers to do everything they can to protect themselves and their neighbors as we continue to manage this pandemic,” he said.
The New York Times: “New York reports its first case of the troubling variant that is dominant in Brazil.”
New York State: “Governor Cuomo Announces Discovery of First Brazilian Variant in New York State Resident.”
CDC: “US COVID-19 Cases Caused by Variants,” “COVID-19 Vaccinations in the United States.”