COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is tracking a newer strain of the coronavirus with more than a dozen confirmed cases of the U.K. variant in the Georgia.
Health officials say Georgia is one of at least 30 states reporting cases of this variant across the country.
With more than half a million COVID-19 vaccines administered in the Peach State, health experts are warning a new, more contagious coronavirus strain could become the dominant strain in the U.S. by early spring. DPH is now reporting 19 confirmed cases of the U.K. COVID variant, or the B. 1. 1. 7 variant, in Georgia.
“I’m very happy on the one hand because that means they’re looking and they’re monitoring it and so they’ll be able to tell us as it starts to arise. I don’t think they have data to say how prevalent it is yet. My guess would be less than 10 percent right now, which would be in line with the prediction that it’ll become dominate sometime in March,” said Dr. Dave Blake, a neuroscience professor at Augusta University.
Of the nearly 20 confirmed cases of the more contagious variant, DPH says they are in people ranging from 15 to 61 years old in metro-Atlanta.
With this U.K. variant detected in multiple states across the country, the race continues to vaccinate Americans, including Georgians who fall into the Phase1A+ category.
“Both manufacturers, both Pfizer and Moderna, have stated that their vaccine that they’re using right now is effective against this variant,” said Pamela Kirkland with the Columbus Health Department.
Blake recalls the big COVID-19 outbreak of the original strain in Albany late last winter and early spring centering around funeral activities.
“People from the United Kingdom travel to the United States, got into contact with people and it’s going to spread the same way the virus originally spread. This one is about 50 percent more contagious,” he explained.
Blake says he thinks COVID will be with us all year, but says we’ll probably have a near return to normal activities before the end of summer.
Health officials say labs are working to identify the variant in hundreds of swabs collected across Georgia, but say this is only a small percentage of all the COVID tests done in the state. They say just because the variant hasn’t been identified in a particular area in the state doesn’t mean it’s not there.