Colorado Health Officials Are Investigating a Second Suspected Case of New Covid Strain

Hyoung Chang | Denver Post | Getty Images
  • Colorado health officials said Wednesday they are investigating a potential second case of a new and potentially more infectious strain of Covid-19.
  • The confirmed case as well as the second potential second case are members of the Colorado National Guard.

WASHINGTON — Colorado health officials said Wednesday they are investigating a potential second case of a new and potentially more infectious strain of Covid-19.

"There's still a lot we don't know about this variant," Colorado Governor Jared Polis said Wednesday, advising Coloradans to continue to abide by CDC guidelines into the new year.

On Tuesday, Colorado health officials confirmed the nation's first case of the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant.

The infected individual, a man in his 20s, does not have a history of traveling and is in isolation with mild symptoms, officials said Tuesday.

The confirmed case as well as the second patient are both members of the Colorado National Guard. Both individuals were supporting the Good Samaritan Society assisted living facility in Simla, about an hour and a half south of Denver.

Officials said Wednesday that there were a total of six Colorado National Guard members working at the facility.

"Both of these cases are Colorado National Guard personnel who were deployed to support staffing at the Good Samaritan Society nursing home in Simla," explained the state's top epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

She added that the individuals were tested on December 24th at the state lab, a routine measure for National Guard members working in close proximity of Covid-19 patients or areas prone to outbreak.

"Right now we are currently investigating two possibilities for how these individuals may have acquired their infections," Herlihy said.

"Given the detection of the variant in Colorado, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have allowed us to temporarily pause visitation for nursing homes for the time being so that that population can be vaccinated quickly," Polis said.

"Not only is the health risk felt more acutely by older Coloradans, but social isolation is a difficult and emotional piece that so many residents of nursing homes have faced," he said, adding that the measure will safeguard the state's older community.

Dr. Emily Travanty, director of the Laboratory Services Division at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said officials are currently analyzing 24 suspicious samples that may contain mutations. She explained that there was not sufficient data to link the additional 24 samples to the B.1.1.7 variant.

On a Wednesday call with reporters, Dr. Henry Walke of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the new variant appears to spread "more easily and quickly than other strains." Walke also said it does not seem to result it worse infections or an increased risk of death.

Walke said that the individual in Colorado who was infected with the new strain of the virus did not have a travel history, which "suggests this variant has been transmitted from person to person in the United States."

He added that considering how widely the variant has spread in the U.K., the arrival of it in the U.S. "was expected."

Preliminary analysis of the new variant, first identified in the U.K., suggests it may be the culprit behind Britain's recent spike in cases.

The CDC said in December that the new strain could already be circulating in the U.S. without notice. The CDC cited ongoing travel between the U.K. and the U.S. as an explanation for the potential arrival of the new variant.

Read more: UK to impose tougher restrictions on millions of people as Covid cases soar

The discovery of the strain in Britain sparked border closures in European countries like Ireland, France, Belgium and Germany as well as countries outside the continent.

Last week, the British government confirmed that another infectious variant of the coronavirus identified in South Africa had also emerged in the United Kingdom. The strain from South Africa has not yet been identified in the United States.

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