NYC health officials optimistic about combating spread of UK COVID variant

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Health officials in New York City on Wednesday said they are keeping a close eye on the UK COVID variant, but they are cautiously optimistic about the outlook moving forward.

According to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s senior medical adviser Dr. Jay Varma, genomic sequencing has uncovered 59 cases of the UK variant in New York City.

Health officials have noted that the variant is more contagious and possibly more deadly that the predominant strain circulating through the United States, though it appears that current vaccines can protect against the strain.

Because of its contagious nature and difficulty to detect, Varma notes it’s possible more cases could be in New York City.

“The current estimate is that about 6% of cases in the city are due to the B117, or UK variant,” he noted.

Dr. Varma says that the percentage is higher than they would like, but it has been stable for 23 weeks.

“That gives us optimism… cautious optimism that we can still out run it with all of the prevention measures and, of course, the most important prevention measure, which is vaccination,” the doctor said.

Despite the city’s best efforts to vaccinate all New Yorkers as quickly as possible, Varma says residents still need to remain vigilant. He notes that in other nations, such as Denmark, the rate of infection can stay at a low level and then suddenly spike.

Mayor de Blasio notes City Hall is keeping an eye on the statistics as well.

“We're very concerned about the variance we're talking about all the time focus on all the time here at City Hall,” he said. “But the most important question is the strategy, and the strategy remains the same: get people vaccinate.”

The Health Department says the city has seen no evidence of the variants first discovered in South Africa and Brazil.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images