First cases of faster-spreading COVID-19 variant detected in Arizona – KTAR.com

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PHOENIX — The COVID-19 variant that spreads at a faster rate has been detected in Arizona, the Arizona Department of Health Services said in a press release Friday night.

AZDHS, the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, Pinal County Public Health Services and Arizona State University report the variant (B.1.1.7) has been confirmed in three test samples from the state.

While the variant spreads faster, according to the release, studies suggest the vaccines authorized to fight COVID-19 are still effective against the variant.

It isn’t known how widely the variant may have spread in Arizona, according to the release.

The United Kingdom identified the new strain in the fall of 2020, with the first case of the variant being detected in the United States at the end of December.

Health officials say it’s typical for viruses to change through mutation, with new variants of a virus expected to occur over time. Some new variants emerge and disappear, according to the release, while others appear and linger.

The state’s health department is working with laboratory and public health partners, including the Centers for Disease Control, to monitor the situation, according to the release.

Health officials are asking people to follow mitigation strategies proven to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including wearing a mask, maintaining physical distance and washing hands.

Arizona health officials on Friday reported 5,028 new coronavirus cases and 203 additional deaths from COVID-19.

The state’s documented totals moved to 748,260 infections and 13,022 fatalities, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services’ COVID-19 dashboard.

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