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The Health Department released on March 31, 2021 a new data report about COVID-19 virus variants. For the week of March 15-21, variants now represent over 70% of cases sequenced. The rapid increase in the proportion of cases due to these variants suggests that they are more infectious than previously circulating variants.
The New York City Public Health Laboratory (PHL) and the New York City Pandemic Response Laboratory (PRL) have been conducting systematic surveillance for variants. Five variants of concern have been detected in New York City: B.1.1.7 (first identified in the United Kingdom), B.1.351 (first detected in South Africa), B.1.427 and B.1.429 (both first identified in California), and the P.1 variant (first identified in Brazil). Three additional variants, known as variants of interest, are also being monitored in New York City: B.1.526 and B.1.525 (both first detected in NYC), and the P.2 variant (first found in Brazil).
Among a randomly selected, demographically representative sample of specimens submitted to the PRL – and sequenced the week of March 15-21:
– 26.2% were B.1.1.7 (183 out of 698 specimens) compared to 11.9% sequenced in a prior week (February 22-28). These specimens were submitted to the PRL for diagnostic testing. PRL accepts specimens from New York City Health and Hospitals outpatient and inpatient facilities, including community Test & Trace Corps sites, as well as private providers.
– 27.9% (195 out of 698) were B.1.526 with the E484K mutation, compared to 20.9% the week of February 22-28.
– B.1.526 without the E484K mutation was 15.0% (105 out of 698) of specimens sequenced the week of March 15-21 compared to 18.0% the week of February 22-28. The E484K mutation has been found in several variants and may enable the virus to evade certain antibodies.
The information on COVID-19 variants in NYC will be updated weekly. For national figures, see the CDC’s US COVID-19 Cases Caused by Variants.