IOWA, USA — A COVID-19 variant from the United Kingdom has now been confirmed in Iowa.
Two of the three cases of SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7. were identified in Johnson County—an adult age 18-to-40 and a middle-aged adult 41-to-60—and a third was confirmed in a Bremer County adult, the Iowa Department of Public Health said in a release Monday .
"Based on epidemiologic and modeling data, researchers believe that the B.1.1.7 strain can be spread more easily than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2," IDPH said. "Current COVID-19 vaccines are considered to be effective against the variant strain."
The patients are being monitored to determine exposures, and those who may have come in contact with the individuals will be notified and "advised to isolate."
The State Hygienic Lab identified the positive cases, according to IDPH.
“Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time. Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear. Other times, new variants emerge and persist," State Medical Director and Epidemiologist said in the release. "Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been documented in the United States and globally during this pandemic. Public health will continue to work with our partners at [the State Hygienic Lab] to monitor these trends and it is very important that we all keep practicing good public health protective measures."
IDPH said the State Hygienic Lab participates in a federal Strain Surveillance Program to send samples in to be tested for the variant, as well as conducting their own sequencing work to look for the variant.
Local 5 asked whether or not Iowans should heed extra precautions, given the contagious nature of the new variant.
Sarah Eckstrand, with the Iowa Department of Public Health, said Iowans should "continue the mitigation efforts that we know work to slow the spread of COVID-19."
They are the following:
- Wear a mask or face covering
- Practice social distancing with those outside your household
- Clean your hands frequently with soap and water
- Stay home if you feel sick
- Get tested if you are exposed to, or have symptoms of COVID-19
- Consider getting a COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available to you
Des Moines Public School District tells Local 5 it's simply not possible to social distance in all areas, now that they are required to welcome a high volume of students back on campus.
"With the increase in class sizes, the recommendations for social distancing will not be able to be met in classrooms," said spokesperson Amanda Lewis. "The same is true on school buses; face masks will be required but social distancing will not always be possible."
Lewis said the new variant makes vaccines even more urgent.
"The state mandate for a five-day school week doesn't appear to consider any COVID variants. This underscores the importance that teachers and school staff are able to get vaccinated as soon as possible."
Updates to Iowa’s B.1.1.7 cases will be shared on the CDC’s website here.
Watch: UnityPoint doctor answers vaccine questions about side effects, allergies and pregnant women