U.S. confirms first case of the new Covid strain discovered in UK

A person gestures towards a sign with a public health information message, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), as new restrictions come into force, in London, Britain, December 20, 2020.

Toby Melville | Reuters

The first case of a new and potentially more infectious strain of Covid-19 has been confirmed in the United States, Colorado health officials said Tuesday.

The Colorado State Laboratory confirmed and notified the Center for Disease Control and Prevention of the case. The individual is a male in his 20s who is currently in isolation in Elbert County and has no travel history.

“There is a lot we don’t know about this new Covid-19 variant, but scientists in the United Kingdom are warning the world that it is significantly more contagious. The health and safety of Coloradans is our top priority and we will closely monitor this case, as well as all COVID-19 indicators, very closely,” Colorado Governor Jared Polis said Tuesday.

“We are working to prevent spread and contain the virus at all levels,” Polis said, adding that public health officials were working to identify other potential cases through contact tracing interviews.

Preliminary analysis of the mutated strain, first identified in the U.K., suggests it may be the culprit behind Britain’s recent spike in cases. The new strain, referred to as SARS-CoV-2 VUI 202012/01 in the science community, could be as much as 70% more transmissible, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

The CDC said in December that the new strain could already be circulating in the U.S. without notice. The CDC cited ongoing travel between the U.K. and the U.S. as an explanation for the potential arrival of the new variant.

Read more: 5 things to know about the new Covid strain spreading in the UK

The discovery of the strain in Britain sparked border closures in European countries like Ireland, France, Belgium and Germany as well as countries outside of the continent.

The Trump administration does not plan to impose Covid-19 screenings for passengers arriving at U.S. airports from the United Kingdom, Reuters reported, citing officials familiar with the matter.

The British government confirms that another infectious variant of the novel coronavirus identified in South Africa has also in the United Kingdom. The strain from South Africa has not yet been identified in the United States.

President Donald Trump’s coronavirus vaccine czar, Moncef Slaoui, said earlier in December that the Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 shots should be effective against new strains.