PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A Multnomah County resident with no known travel history tested positive for the new variant strain of COVID-19, the Oregon Health Authority said early Friday evening.
This is the first case in Oregon of the strain first seen in the United Kingdom. Health officials are looking into the possible sources of the infection, which has already been detected in several other states.
The strain is officially called B.1.1.7 or SARS-CoV-2 VOC 202012/01.
“The detection of the first case of this variant strain is a concern, and we have been monitoring movement of this strain,” said Oregon State Epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger in a statement. “As we learn more about this case and the individual who tested positive for this strain, OHA continues to promote effective public health measures, including wearing masks, maintaining six feet of physical distance, staying home, washing your hands, and avoiding gatherings and travel.”
In early January, Sidelinger told KOIN 6 News he’s concerned about the new strain but it’s not keeping him up at night.
“I think the data we have shows that, yeah, this is a new variation. It may be more easily transmissible but we have some tools to find it.”
He also said anytime a virus mutates scientists are concerned. But viruses do this all the time. And even though this strain may be more contagious, it seems the new vaccines will still protect people effectively.
“Confirming this strain locally is distressing,” said Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines. “Until we have enough vaccine, we must continue using face masks, distancing, and limiting our social interactions.”
The COVID vaccine is being rolled out. But the little cloth mask is the real star in helping slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“We really needed to step up and start sharing a clear message around what we can do to slow this thing down as communities, at the local level, at the national level, at every possible level,” said Dr. John Lynch with the Universtiry of Washington Department of Medicine, where he’s an associate professor.
Lynch is also a board member with the Infectious Diseases Society of America. After a year of experience, research and data, they felt like as a nation we’re still behind.