The first case of a more contagious strain of COVID-19 has been found in California, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday.
Newsom made the announcement that the more infectious strain, first detected in the United Kingdom, has been detected in his state during a virtual conversation with Dr. Anthony Fauci.
“Just an hour or so ago we were informed that this new variant, this new strain that we have identified obviously from the U.K. and some other parts of the globe, identified in Colorado yesterday has been identified here in the state of California, in southern California,” Newsom said.
The new strain is not believed to be more deadly but is said to be 70% more contagious.
The first case of the strain found in the U.S. was detected on Tuesday in a Colorado resident who had not travelled abroad.
“Today we discovered Colorado’s first case of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7, the same variant discovered in the UK,” Democratic Colorado Gov. Jared Polis wrote Tuesday on Twitter. “The health and safety of Coloradans is our top priority and we will monitor this case, as well as all COVID-19 indicators, very closely.”
The strain was found in a man in his 20s who is in now isolation southeast of Denver in Elbert County and has no travel history, state health officials told The Associated Press.
“There is a lot we don’t know about this new COVID-19 variant, but scientists in the United Kingdom are warning the world that it is significantly more contagious,” Polis said. “The health and safety of Coloradans is our top priority and we will closely monitor this case, as well as all COVID-19 indicators, very closely. We are working to prevent spread and contain the virus at all levels.”
The new strain should still be able to be targeted with the two vaccines now being distributed across the country, Fauci said this week.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Saturday, “There’s no evidence to suggest the vaccine will be any less effective against the new variant. Our experts will continue their work to improve our understanding as fast as we can.”
Dr. Nelson Michael, director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research at the institute, told CNN that there is no indication that the inoculations will be ineffective. “It stands to reason that this mutation isn’t a threat, but you never know. We still have to be diligent and continue to look,” Michael told the network on Sunday.
Scientists at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research last week began studying the genetic sequences of the new strain, which was posted online by British researchers. The “analysis will allow us to gauge how much concern we should have. Other teams around the world are doing this analysis, too,” Michael told CNN.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, who serves as the World Health Organization’s lead on COVID-19, said Sunday that the new strain is crossing borders. “We understand that this variant has been identified also in Denmark, in the Netherlands, and there was one case in Australia and it didn’t spread further there,” Van Kerkhove told the BBC on Sunday.
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