FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – March 8, 2021
Logan Anderson, Logan.Anderson@vdh.virginia.gov
First Case of B.1.351 COVID-19 Variant Identified in the Central Region of Virginia
(RICHMOND, Va.) – The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) today announced that the first case of the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.351 has been identified in a sample from an adult resident of the Central Region of Virginia who had no history of travel during the exposure period. The B.1.351 variant, which first emerged in South Africa in late 2020, is associated with increased person-to-person transmission of COVID-19. At this time, there is no evidence that infections with this variant cause more severe disease. To date, the B.1.351 variant has been identified in 19 other U.S. states or jurisdictions.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been working with state public health, academic, and commercial laboratories to increase domestic strain surveillance capacity to sequence thousands of specimens every week. This effort has greatly expanded our ability to detect and characterize emerging viral variants in the United States. CDC notified Virginia of the case that was identified through these efforts at a commercial laboratory. With the identification of this case in the Central Region, Virginia has now identified a total of 11 cases of the B.1.351 variant and 31 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom. With the combined state and national surveillance efforts, it is likely that additional cases with SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern will be identified.
Viruses change all the time, and VDH expects to see new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus as disease spreads. As our public health officials closely monitor the emergence of these SARS-CoV-2 variants in our Commonwealth, it is critical that all Virginians comply now with mitigation measures. We are in a race to stop the spread of these new variants. The more people that become infected, the greater that chance the virus will mutate and a variant will arise that could undermine the current vaccination efforts. Public health recommendations for stopping the spread of COVID-19 will work for all COVID-19 variants. This means wearing masks correctly, staying at least six feet from others, avoiding crowds, washing hands often, getting vaccinated for COVID-19 when it is your turn, and staying home if you are infected with COVID-19 or if you have had close contact with someone with COVID-19.
As of March 7, 2021, approximately 1.9 million Virginians have joined the fight against COVID-19 using their mobile devices. This includes 1,018,102 downloads of COVIDWISE – the nation’s first app using the Google/Apple framework and the second most downloaded exposure notifications app in the United States. More than 900,000 additional iPhone users have also turned on COVIDWISE Express, which is a secondary exposure notifications option specifically for iPhone users.