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New strain of coronavirus confirmed in Mecklenburg County

The NC Department of Health and Human Services says the first identified case was confirmed by Mako Medical Laboratories in an adult in Mecklenburg County.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina health officials confirm the new strain of COVID-19 has been detected in the state -- specifically, in Mecklenburg County.

"I'm not surprised we've been saying for awhile that we suspect that it is here, it was really just a matter of time till we had it detected in North Carolina," NCDHHS Epidemiologist, Zack Moore said.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said the first identified case was confirmed by Mako Medical Laboratories in an adult in Mecklenburg County. To protect the privacy of the individual, no further information will be released.

"We're doing 50,000 tests per day, to date we've over 4 million tests," the director of genomics at Mako Medical Laboratories said.  

The new strain, called B.1.1.7, was first detected in the United Kingdom in December. According to NCDHHS, there are 195 cases of B.1.1.7 in the US in 21 states as of Friday. 

"This virus might become the predominant or the major virus in this country by March and that could lead to an increase in cases at a time when we predicted cases should be going down," Moore said.

Health officials said early data suggest that this new strain may be more contagious than the first strain of coronavirus. Current COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be effective against the new strain. 

“While expected, identification of this COVID-19 variant in North Carolina is concerning, especially at the same time as we are already seeing very high numbers of cases,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, MD. “It is more important than ever to practice the 3Ws.”

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Health Director Gibbie Harris released this statement on the B.1.17 COVID-19 strain: 

"There is one confirmed case of the B.1.1.7 strain of COVID-19 in Mecklenburg County. This is the first confirmed case of the B.1.1.7 in the State.

The confirmed presence of the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 strain in our community means that we need to be even more vigilant in our prevention measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. Continue to practice the 3 Ws, follow the Public Health Directive that was announced January 12 by only leaving your home for essential needs and work and avoiding gathering with people outside of your household and get vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is available to you."

State health officials advise people to stay home except for essential activities and avoid gathering, especially indoors, with people who do not live with you. If you absolutely must travel or be with people you do not live with, get tested in advance, keep it small and outdoors and always wear a mask. 

Also, NCDHHS reminds the public that North Carolina's Modified Stay at Home Order is in effect. This order requires people to stay at home between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

"Viruses change all the time and we've seen lots of changes in COVID since our first cases in the United States the things that we know that protect us from getting infected will still protect us from this variant," Moore said. 

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