‘On the road to a crisis’: Highly contagious COVID-19 variant reported in Harris County

HOUSTON – The highly contagious COVID-19 variant strand, first found in the United Kingdom, is being reported in Harris County and the state of Texas, according to Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

Hidalgo tweeted, “We’ve confirmed the FIRST Texas case of the more contagious, ‘British’ #COVID19 strand #B117 in Harris County. This is disturbing. Along with our recent trends, we could be on the road to a crisis if we don’t change our behavior NOW. Do your part.”

She said the variant strand is 70% more contagious but no evidence has been shown that it’s more lethal on its own.

Hidalgo said county officials are aggressively investigating links to this person. She said there is no way to contain the new virus and there is a possibility it’s been here but officials are just now finding out about it.

Hidalgo encouraged residents to double down on personal interactions and having close contact with those who do not live in their household.

The Harris County Public Health also confirmed the first case of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7, saying it is the first known case in the county and state.

The infected patient is a man between the ages of 30-40 years old in southwest Harris County and has had no history of traveling. HCPH said the man is stable, in isolation and will remain quarantined until cleared by public health officials.

HCPH epidemiologists contacted those they identified as being in close contact with the patient. Health officials are conducting a thorough investigation in conjunction with the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Based on studies in the UK, scientists believe the B.1.1.7 variant is more easily transmitted than previously identified strains of the SARS-CoV-2 variant but not more severe in symptoms. They say the currently approved vaccines are thought to be effective against this variant.

“The health and safety of everyone in our community remains our top priority. Though mutations of a virus are expected, we are closely monitoring this case and any potential contacts to prevent the ongoing spread of the virus at all levels,” said Dr. Sherri Onyiego, health authority for Harris County, “The prevention measures for this strain are no different and our community should continue staying home in addition to wearing facemasks, social distancing, getting tested, and washing your hands frequently. We know that our community is growing COVID-19 fatigue, but as cases and hospitalizations are steadily increasing, now is not the time to drop our guard down.”

Watch Hidalgo’s full press conference below:

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