The first known U.S. case of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7 — the same one discovered in the United Kingdom — has been reported in Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis and state public health officials announced Tuesday.
The case involves a man in his 20s who is in isolation in Elbert County and has no travel history, officials said. An investigation was underway.
The man is recovering and will remain in isolation until cleared, officials said. He has no close contacts identified so far, but public health officials are working to identify other potential cases and contacts through tracing interviews, the state said.
The Colorado State Laboratory confirmed and notified the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the case.
“There is a lot we don’t know about this new COVID-19 variant, but scientists in the United Kingdom are warning the world that it is significantly more contagious," Polis said in a statement.
"The health and safety of Coloradans is our top priority, and we will closely monitor this case — as well as all COVID-19 indicators — very closely. We are working to prevent spread and contain the virus at all levels,” his statement read.
“I want to thank our scientists and dedicated medical professionals for their swift work and ask Coloradans to continue our efforts to prevent disease transmission by wearing masks, standing 6 feet apart when gathering with others, and only interacting with members of their immediate household.”
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While scientists believe the variant is more contagious, they say its symptoms are no more severe. The approved COVID-19 vaccines are thought to be effective against the variant, officials said.
The Colorado state lab was the first in the country to identify the variant through analysis of testing samples, officials said. In a diagnostic test, a signal for what's called the "S-gene" wasn't detected, and its absence is considered an essential signature for the variant.
Scientists sequenced the viral genome from the patient sample and "found eight mutations specific to the spike protein gene associated with this variant," public health officials said.
“The fact that Colorado has detected this variant first in the nation is a testament to the sophistication of Colorado's response and the talent of CDPHE's scientist and lab operations,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
“We are currently using all the tools available to protect public health and mitigate the spread of this variant.”
Polis and state officials are scheduled to provide more details at a press conference Wednesday morning.