Georgia reports UK strain of coronavirus found in 18-year-old

Georgia Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey gives an update on the COVID-19 vaccine at the State Capital on December 31, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Georgia Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey gives an update on the COVID-19 vaccine at the State Capital on December 31, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) said Tuesday it has discovered the state’s first confirmed case of the U.K. COVID-19 strain, raising alarms among hospitals that the pandemic’s upward climb could become even worse.

DPH said a Georgia resident, an 18-year-old man with no travel history, is isolating at his home. State officials also working to identify the teen’s close contacts. DPH said the agency will monitor any close contacts and test those individuals for the variant.

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The U.K. variant, also known as B.1.1.7, is believed to be much more contagious than the typical SARS-CoV-2 virus. Though the variant is not believed to be more lethal or cause more severe illness, it has deepened officials’ concerns as the U.S. is gripped by its third and so far worst wave of the virus.

Hospitals nationally and in Georgia are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged states to test for the variant, which has been found in at least five states, including California, New York and Colorado.

“The emergence of this variant in our state should be a wake-up call for all Georgians,” said DPH Commissioner Dr. Katheen E. Toomey. “Even as we begin roll out of a COVID-19 vaccine, we must not let down our guard and ignore basic prevention measures – wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands frequently.”

DPH had said it would start testing for the variant this week. DPH said in a news release the strain was found during an analysis of a sample sent from a Georgia pharmacy to a commercial lab.

In the U.K., the new variant has put a substantial toll on hospitals. Prime Minister Boris Johnson enacted a third national lockdown in England in response.

A reporter informed Grady Health System Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Jansen about the arrival of the new variant in the middle of an interview.

Jansen already had expressed deep concern about overflowing hospitals and the upward curve of the pandemic in Georgia.

Upon hearing the news, he said, “It’s frightening. When you see what is happening, it is more infectious…you’ll have more people coming to the hospital.”

He repeated a request by Toomey for people to take precautions.

This is a developing story. Return to ajc.com for updates.

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