The new, more contagious, strain of Covid-19 has made its way to Virginia, state Department of Health has confirmed.
The variant first found in the United Kingdom last year was identified in a Northern Virginia resident with no travel history. The health department declined to provide details on the case, including where the person lives in Northern Virginia so we aren’t sure if the individual lives in McLean, Arlington, Alexandria or elsewhere – and it really doesn’t matter. The concern is that this strain is now local.
The variant known as B.1.1.7 is one of several strains of COVID-19 identified worldwide by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Viruses change all the time, and we expect to see new strains as disease spreads,” State Health Commissioner Dr. M. Norman Oliver said. “We know this variant strain spreads more quickly between people than other strains currently circulating in our communities, but we still have more to learn about whether it causes more severe illness.”
Health experts have warned that the variant sweeping through Britain will probably become the dominant source of infection in the U.S. in the coming weeks.
“The modeled trajectory of this variant in the U.S. exhibits rapid growth in early 2021, becoming the predominant variant in March,” states the CDC on its website.
Even though the new strain is not believed to be more severe than the original COVID-19, it’s likely to infect more people because it’s more contagious. So the actual number of people who develop severe illnesses and die will be higher simply because of the greater volume of those infected.
“Instead of 4,000 deaths a day, we could be looking at 6 to 7,000 deaths a day in the United States by February or March,” said Dr. Christopher Newman of Fredericksburg, VA. “That’s really tragic, that is catastrophic.”
Governor Ralph Northam took to Twitter to ask the residents to be vigilant and follow the standard operating procedures.
“Though not unexpected, the presence of the highly contagious #COVID19 variant in our Commonwealth should be a reminder to all Virginians that now more than ever, we need to be vigilant about following public health and safety measures,” he tweeted.
Scientists are still studying the makeup of the new strain, but believe the current vaccines are effective, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
The U.S. has reported almost 200 cases of the variant in 24 states so far. California has been the most affected state with 72 cases as of Monday.
The SARS-CoV-2 has the ability to mutate which means that there can be several other variants of the virus, according to the Virginia Department of Health. In fact, Dr. Anthony Fauci has warned of ‘more ominous’ COVID-19 strains from Brazil and South Africa.
John is a local news reporter for the Virginia Herald. His coverage area is statewide with a focus on NOVA and Richmond area news.
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