NORTH CAROLINA, USA — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday the first identification of the COVID-19 variant B.1.351, first detected in South Africa was found in a North Carolina resident.
The variant case was identified in a sample from an adult in the central part of the state who had not recently traveled. To protect the privacy of the individual, no further information will be released. The variant was detected by LabCorp and selected for sequencing as part of a partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health officials say North Carolina is the fourth state to report an identified case of B.1.351 and as of Feb. 9 nine cases with this variant have been identified in residents of South Carolina, Maryland and Virginia.
NCDHHS said they expect to see new COVID-19 variants in the state as the pandemic continues. Data suggest this variant may be more contagious than other variants but does not suggest that it causes more severe disease, however, current COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be effective against this and other new variants.
"While we anticipated the arrival of the B.1.351 variant in NC, it’s a reminder that the fight against COVID-19 is not over. The emergence of variants that are more infectious means it’s more important than ever to do what we know works to slow the spread — wear a mask, wash your hands, wait 6 feet apart, and get vaccinated when it’s your turn,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen.
NCDHHS also shared recommendations to improve mask-wearing based on guidance from the CDC.
- Make sure your mask fits snugly against your face and covers your nose and mouth. To help with a snug fit, you can use a mask with a metal strip along the top of the mask.
- Use two or more layers for your face covering. You can do this by wearing a cloth face covering with two or more layers or by wearing one disposable mask (sometimes referred to as a surgical mask or a medical procedure mask) underneath a cloth mask.
- Do not wear two disposable masks.
- Make sure you can see and breathe easily.
Health officials say as of Feb. 10, North Carolina has administered more than 1.4 million COVID-19 vaccines.
North Carolina is currently vaccinating all people in Groups 1 and 2, which include health care workers, long-term care staff and residents, and people 65 and older. Vaccine eligibility for people in Group 3 will begin Feb. 24 for teachers and child care workers and Mar. 10 for additional front-line essential workers.
Group 4 will include adults at high risk for exposure and increased risk of severe illness, and Group 5 will include everyone.