NEW YORK - The UK variant, the South African variant, and the Brazilian variant are among the more contagious mutations of the coronavirus floating around, but to what degree, we still don't know.
"You can either be flying blind or get a little bit of advanced notice and say, 'Ok here's this variant that's more infectious and it's now here in New York or the U.S.," said Neville Sanjana, PhD, a faculty member at the New York Genome Center and NYU.
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Sanjana says right now, we're kind of flying blind.
In New York City, hundreds of COVID-19 samples are being genomically sequenced each week, out of tens of thousands of tests being administered citywide.
"Here it's not been a matter, do we have the right scientists or people? i think quite obviously," said Sanjana. "I think there's just been no top-down organized efforts to do surveillance sequencing in the U.S."
Now city officials are trying to change that.
"Is it as much as we would like it to be? No," said Dr. Jay Varma, the Mayor's Senior Advisor for Public Health. Varma said the city is in the midst of aggressively scaling up its surveillance of the virus variants.
"We are working on a plan in collaboration with some of the other partners to increase the number from hundreds to thousands and that process is actually beginning this week right now," Varma said.
One challenge thus far has been getting the COVID-19 samples to the sequencing labs, something officials are working to improve.
At the federal level the Biden administration is also ramping up its variant detection efforts with a goal of sequencing 7,000 virus samples each week.