The South African COVID-19 variant has now been found in Maryland—causing the third confirmed case in the U.S.
A Maryland resident has contracted a potentially more infectious variant of the COVID-19 that was originally identified in South Africa, Gov. Larry Hogan confirmed on Saturday. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), variant B.1.351 is believed to be more transmissible than other strains of the virus, but does not cause a more serious illness or increase the likelihood that a person dies as a result of infection compared with other strains. The B.1.351 variant was first detected in October 2020 in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa. It was first reported in the United States on Jan. 28, in South Carolina.
A statement from Hogan’s office said the resident had not travelled internationally recently, making community transmission a likely source of infection. The person is isolating at home and did not require hospitalization, governor’s spokesman Mike Ricci said. Hogan says the strain is not known to cause “more severe illness” or increased risk of death, but it is highly contagious compared to other strains.
“State health officials are closely monitoring the B.1.351 variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the state,” Hogan said. “We strongly encourage Marylanders to practice extra caution to limit the additional risk of transmission associated with this variant. Please continue to practice standard public health and safety measures, including mask wearing, regular hand washing, and physical distancing.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases doctor, warned the COVID-19 vaccines may be less effective against the South African strain. “Clearly, the mutants have a diminishing effect on the efficacy of the vaccines,” Fauci said in a briefing, according to Reuters.
ARTICLE: ERIC SHEQI
POLITICS EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: MICHAEL ROBINSON CHAVREZ/THE NEW YORK TIMES