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South African Virus Variant Found in New York Resident, Cuomo Says

February 22, 2021

NEW YORK— The first case of the South African coronavirus variant has been discovered in a New York state resident, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday.

The South African variant case involved a resident of Long Island's Nassau County, Cuomo said in a news release. The sequencing was conducted at Opentrons Labworks Inc's Pandemic Response Lab, a New York City-based commercial lab, and verified at the Wadsworth Center in Albany. 

A Connecticut resident who had been hospitalized in New York City was found to have the South African variant last week.

The mutated version of the virus, originally identified in South Africa, was first found in the United States last month. Scientists believe it is more easily spread than other virus strains.

Cuomo said the variant's arrival in New York means that COVID-19 safety measures like wearing masks and maintaining distance from other people are more important than ever. "We are in a race right now — between our ability to vaccinate and these variants which are actively trying to proliferate — and we will only win that race if we stay smart and disciplined," he said.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said in a statement, "We don't believe the South African variant is more deadly, but it may be more contagious. The best response is to continue the tried and true precautions: wearing masks, avoiding social gatherings, distancing, staying home and getting tested when sick."

New York state's latest COVID-19 numbers, meanwhile show a continued downward trend in hospitalizations and deaths following the holiday season spike.

There were fewer than 5,800 patients hospitalized with the virus on Saturday, a decline of more than 800 from a week earlier.

The state recorded 75 COVID-19 deaths on Saturday, the first time since Dec. 16 that the daily death toll was under 100.

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OVERNIGHT SUBWAY HOURS EXTENDED

Overnight subway service is returning in New York City, though trains still won't be running 24/7. 

Beginning early Monday, trains will run until 2 a.m. and resume at 4 a.m. It's the first expansion of hours since last May when officials took the rare step of shutting down service between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. to allow for extensive cleaning and disinfecting of train cars and stations due to the pandemic. 

Transit officials say cleaning will continue during the shortened shutdown period.

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