Colorado health officials over the weekend confirmed the state’s first cases of a concerning coronavirus variant that was first detected in South Africa late last year.
Officials said three cases of the B.1.351 variant were detected at the Colorado Department of Corrections Buena Vista Correctional Complex. Two cases were among staff members and the other case was in an incarcerated individual.
The samples were detected after they were selected at random for genomic surveillance at the Colorado State Public Health Laboratory, which will “sequence all positive specimens from this facility to look for variants,” health officials said in a news release.
State health officials said they have notified the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding the cases, adding that all exposed persons at the correctional facility “will be required to complete a 14-day quarantine.”
Inmates at the Colorado Department of Corrections Buena Vista Correctional Complex are tested weekly, said officials, who noted that testing inmates and staff for COVID-19 “has been one of the most important tools for the Department of Corrections during the course of this pandemic.”
The B.1.351 strain was first detected in South African in October 2020. The strain is concerning because experts say it is more transmissible and likely more virulent than the original strain, meaning it may cause more severe illness. It has also shown to diminish efficacy from vaccines, and nearly escape antibody treatments. Several drugmakers, including Moderna, are now working on variant booster shots in a bid for more protection against the variants.
“Everyone should continue to wear masks, practice physical distancing, wash their hands frequently, and get vaccinated when it is their turn. These are our best tools for preventing the spread of this virus, no matter the strain,” Colorado health officials said in the release. ” Early research suggests that the currently authorized vaccines are effective against known variants, though perhaps to varying degrees depending on the strain. Experts stress that getting vaccinated can provide significant protection against severe illness from COVID-19.”
Fox News’ Kayla Rivas contributed to this report.