ALBANY, N.Y. — New York health officials have identified eight new cases of the more contagious COVID-19 strain that was first detected in the United Kingdom, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday.
There are now 12 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 variant in New York, according to the governor. The locations of the new cases were not disclosed.
"The U.K. strain is the X factor," Cuomo said, warning that if the number of cases continues to increase the state's hospital systems could be overwhelmed. "We are balancing on the head of a pin, our hospital capacity."
Nationwide, there are at least 80 known cases of the variant.
Health experts say the variant is no more dangerous than the original virus but it appears to be more contagious. Scientists have suggested it could be as much as 70% more infectious than the original COVID strain.
"That’s what’s panicking the officials," Cuomo said.
The CDC on Tuesday recommended states expand eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to people 65 years old and older.
The governor said New York implemented the recommendation immediately, but criticized the federal government for widening the pool of eligible individuals without increasing the number of vaccine doses the state receives every week.