Virginia health officials confirmed last week that the state had detected its first case of the South African coronavirus variant. The case was confirmed in an adult resident of Eastern Virginia, and officials were working to assess the person’s travel history.
The variant has also been detected in South Carolina and Maryland, and is more transmissible than the other coronavirus strains. The state learned about the case through testing conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“CDC notified Virginia of the case that was identified through these efforts at a commercial laboratory,” a statement from the Virginia Health Department said. “In addition to this case of the B.1.351 variant, four cases of the SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 variant have now been identified in Virginia. With the combined state and national surveillance efforts, it is likely that additional cases with SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern will be identified.”
Health officials said it is “critical that all Virginians comply now with mitigation measures,” as the state races to stop the spread of the variants.
“The more people that become infected, the greater that chance the virus will mutate and a variant will arise that could undermine the current vaccination efforts,” officials said.
Virginia is currently vaccinating residents who fall into either Phase 1a or Phase 1b categories including frontline essential workers, people ages 65 and older and those ages 16-64 with an underlying medical condition. People in correctional facilities, homeless shelters and migrant labor camps are also eligible under Phase 1b. The state will next move onto vaccinating other essential workers categorized as Phase 1c, although it is not clear when.
The state has administered over 1.1 million doses of vaccine, with nearly 207,000 residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19.