A new, highly contagious strain of COVID-19 that was first detected in the United Kingdom and triggered a strict lockdown in the London area has made its way into the United States. Colorado health officials on Tuesday announced that the first confirmed case of the new virus variant has been detected in the state. The man, who is in his twenties, is isolating just south of Denver and has no recent travel history that could be linked to the U.K.
“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,” said Jared Polis, the Governor of Colorado, on Tuesday. “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,” Polis said in a statement. The Governor also revealed that contact tracers are working to determine how the patient contracted the virus, and who else could have been exposed in that time.
Little is known about the new strain of COVID-19, which scientists are calling SARS-CoV-2 VUI 202012/01. What experts do know is that the virus seems to be significantly more contagious than other versions, but have not yet been able to determine whether it could be more deadly.
The United Kingdom has experienced a recent spike in positive COVID-19 cases, likely due to this new strain of the virus. Prime Minister Boris Johnson says that the new strain could be 70% more contagious than the strain of COVID-19 that has been circulating the globe throughout the last year. Earlier this month, just before the holidays, Johnson triggered a tier four lockdown in the London area in response to the spike in cases.
Tier 4 lockdowns are considered the strictest stay at home orders in the United Kingdom, and ask that people avoid travel whenever possible, as well as the closure of many shops and businesses in the area. The United Kingdom has seen a sharp rise in cases since early December, and implemented the new lockdown just days before the Christmas holiday.
Fortunately, experts think that both vaccines—from Pfizer and Moderna—should work to fight off new strains of COVID-19.