The highly infectious coronavirus variant originally discovered in Britain has been detected in California, Governor Gavin Newsom said on Wednesday, a day after the first known U.S. case was documented in Colorado.
Newsom announced his state’s first known case of the coronavirus variant B.1.1.7, identified in Southern California, at the start of an online discussion of the COVID-19 pandemic with leading infectious disease specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Newsom did not immediately provide further details, but Fauci said he was “not surprised,” adding that additional cases of the variant would likely surface in California and other states.
The first U.S. case of the so-called UK variant of the virus, believed by scientists to be more contagious than others previously identified but no more severe in symptoms it causes, was announced by Colorado Governor Jared Polis on Tuesday.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Polis described the patient infected in his state as a National Guard soldier in his 20s who had been assigned to help deal with a COVID outbreak at a nursing home in semi-rural Elbert County, on the outskirts of the Denver metropolitan area.
The director Colorado’s Public Health and Environment Department told reporters that a second member of the National Guard may also have contracted the UK variant, though the state was still awaiting final laboratory confirmation.
The new variant has also been detected in several European countries, as well as in Canada, Australia, India, South Korea and Japan, among others.
Although experts believe the newly approved COVID vaccines will be effective against the British variant, the emergence of a more highly transmissible strain of the virus could make a swift rollout of vaccine immunizations all the more critical.
The U.S. government on Monday began requiring all airline passengers arriving from Britain – including U.S. citizens – to test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of departure.
The government may expand coronavirus testing requirements for international air travelers beyond Britain as early as next week, sources briefed on the matter told Reuters on Wednesday.