New strain of COVID-19 ‘likely to make it here,’ Memphis health official says


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A new variant, or strain, of COVID-19 has been identified in the United States and linked to a Colorado man in his twenties with no travel history.

The fact that Colorado has detected this variant, the first in the nation, has many wondering if it has or will make its way to the Mid-South.

“It’s likely to make it here,” Dr. Manoj Jain said. “We have seen that viruses spread very quickly and we are a very mobile society. At present we don’t have an evidence of that strain being in our community.”

The strain, confirmed Tuesday, was first identified in the United Kingdom and is said to be even more contagious than the original virus, though not more deadly.

“That means a larger number of people get infected and it’ll also mean a larger of people who’ll end up in the hospital,” said Jain, an infectious disease specialist and member of the Memphis and Shelby County COVID-19 task force.

Jain says Memphis medical researchers and laboratory directors are studying the current viral strain to determine if and when a new variant has arrived.

He says the good news is that both Pfizer and Moderna have said they believe their vaccines will also offer protection against the strain.

“More research is being done on that, but what I really want people to know is, to just hang in there and do your part as much as you can in distancing and masking, and when your time comes, absolutely get vaccinated,” Jain said.

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