Map: Here’s where COVID variants are spreading the most in New York City

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A map showing the distribution of UK variant cases, or B.1.1.7.



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Two variants of the coronavirus – those first identified in New York and the UK – have spread across all five boroughs, according to a new report from the city’s health department released on Monday. The pair of mutants took over the bulk of the cases that undergo genomic sequencing analysis, now accounting for nearly three in four. But officials do not yet have evidence that the variants cause re-infections or break vaccine protection.

The report details how the variant landscape in New York City has changed rapidly since January, as the city’s watch programs intensified. The New York variant, called B.1.526, constitutes the majority of these sequenced cases. The UK variant (B.1.1.7) has also increased sharply, as it has across the country to become the dominant form of the virus in the U.S. NYC officials report a slight increase in the variant in origin from Brazil (P.1), but so far it represents only a few sequenced cases.


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The proportion of UK and New York variants among sequenced cases is increasing in all five wards.

New York Department of Health

The city’s public health laboratory as well as the public-private partnership of the pandemic response laboratory are now sequencing more than 5% of positive nose swabs for COVID per week. The duo found that variant cases are scattered across the five arrondissements, but concentrated in certain sections. Data in postal codes with less than three sequenced cases have been omitted.

The New York variant is slightly more common in the Bronx and Queens.


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The New York City variant (B.1.526) is slightly more common in the Bronx and Queens.

New York Department of Health

That in the UK is high in South Brooklyn, East Queens and Staten Island – but overall there are fewer cases in the city than in the New York strain.


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The British variant (B.1.1.7) is slightly elevated in southern Brooklyn, eastern Queens and Staten Island.

New York Department of Health

Genetically sequenced COVID-19 cases are reported to a global database called GISAID, and variants made up 10% of New York-based submissions in January. They now represent 70% in mid-March. New variants are setting the stage for what the pandemic will look like this year, and health experts have worried the mutants are in a race against local vaccination campaigns.

The city report said the variants explain the recent high plateau in COVID-19 cases in the city. Since mid-February, daily COVID-19 cases have mostly remained between 3,000 and 4,000, although city data from the first week of April suggests cases are sliding down again. That’s the lowest since early December, but for comparison, new positives hovered between 300 and 600 from July through September when the city was safe in a lull. Infection rates in four of the five boroughs – Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens – are just under 1.0, meaning outbreaks are slowly declining there. Staten Island has a higher infection rate and the highest case rate of the five boroughs. The infection rate in the metro area (which includes the counties of New Jersey and Pennsylvania) is generally less than one.

Research shows that the British variant is 50% more transmissible and can make people sicker as well. Scientists do not yet fully understand how infectious the New York variant is, but city health officials agree that it is likely more transmissible.

The report also pointed out “there is no evidence to date” that shows either variant reduces the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. Infectious disease experts remain concerned about the New York City variant, however, as it may have a specific mutation known to help the virus escape our body’s defense systems. This mutation is known as E484K, which scientists call “Eek”.

The city says it is closely monitoring any potential cases that would indicate an alarming change – such as hospitalizations or deaths among variant cases or patients who have recovered from infections with the original strain and have now been re-infected with a variant.

The health department noted, “It is too early to know if either of these variants is more likely to cause reinfection or vaccine breakthrough compared to other previously circulating variants.” It emphasized the key precautions New Yorkers should take: wear a mask, distance themselves, stay home when sick, and wash their hands.

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