PHOENIX — Arizona reported its first case of the new U.K. strain of the COVID-19 virus, the Arizona Department of Health Services announced Friday.
The department says three test samples taken in the state were positive for the variant.
Doctors say the coronavirus variant is not well understood but may spread more rapidly. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top pandemic expert, warned against causing undue alarm.
“We don’t want to overreact,” Fauci said in late December, when the virus was first reported in the U.S.
Health experts noted that viruses often mutate as they move through different populations, but its arrival thrust the United Kingdom – where it was first discovered – into a nationwide lockdown.
The common mutation is called N501Y, a slight alteration on one spot of the spike protein that coats the virus. That change is believed to be the reason they can spread so easily, but it’s not thought to make the virus more deadly.
As of late January, 27 states have reported cases of the new variant.
“There’s zero evidence that there’s any increase in severity” of COVID-19 from the latest strain, the World Health Organization’s emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan said in December.
New research suggests that both the Pfizer and Modera vaccines can protect against the mutation found in two contagious variants of the coronavirus.
Arizona’s initial rollout of the virus has been frustratingly slow with cases of the vaccine sitting idle for distribution while the world desperately hopes for an end to the pandemic.
Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order in late December pouring resources to expedite access to the vaccine across the state.
The phased process began with medical workers and patients in long-term care facilities and has been expanded to Arizonans 65 and older.
There have been 748,260 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 13,022 coronavirus-related deaths reported in Arizona, according to the state's latest numbers.
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