The More Contagious Strand of the Coronavirus Has Been Detected in Colorado and California

Abigail Covington
·2 min read
Photo credit: Radoslav  Zilinsky - Getty Images
Photo credit: Radoslav Zilinsky - Getty Images

From Esquire

Two cases—one confirmed, one suspected—of the COVID-19 variant that’s in the United Kingdom have been discovered in Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis announced in a press conference Wednesday. Another case of the variant has also been detected in Los Angeles, California.

In Colorado, both individuals are National Guard personnel who had recently been deployed to assist the staff of the Good Samaritan Society nursing home in Simla, Colorado. According to state epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy, the nursing home is in the midst of an ongoing COVID-19 breakout that began in mid-December.

The two men were tested on December 24th at Colorado’s state lab. The lab identified the variant after flagging a positive test for its unique characteristics and sequencing its genome. The sequencing revealed mutations that are specific to the more contagious variant known as B.1.1.7. So far no other cases of the variant have been detected but tests are ongoing.

Dr. Herlihy’s team is currently trying to determine how the two men contracted the variant. Neither individual had traveled outside of the country in the weeks leading up to their deployment to the Simla nursing home.

Speaking about the new variant cases, Gov. Polis said he was “proud we detected it here in Colorado as quickly as we did” and noted that it was unlikely that the cases in Colorado were actually the very first ones to appear in the United States. Indeed in an appearance on the PBS Newshour on Tuesday night, the new CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said the variant could’ve arrived in the United States months ago. The new variant has also been found in 14 other countries including Canada, Australia, India, South Korea, Japan and various European countries.

Importantly, despite being more transmittable, experts say the new variant doesn’t cause more severe symptoms, and so far the vaccines that are currently being distributed are thought to be effective against it and other variants of COVID-19.

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