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State Confirms First Case of ‘South African Variant’ in Connecticut

Drive-through vaccinations clinic at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. Photo credit: Hugh McQuaid, CTNewsJunkie file photo

According to data released by the state Monday, West Hartford had 41 new positive COVID-19 cases since Friday’s report, and six more cases reported on Tuesday. [Updated]

By Hugh McQuaid,CTNewsJunkie.com

West Hartford-specific information provided by Ronni Newton, We-Ha.com

A Connecticut resident has tested positive for the highly-infectious COVID-19 strain often called the “South African variant,” public health officials announced in a Monday press release, marking the first known case in the state.

The patient, a Fairfield County resident between 60 and 70 years old, is recovering in a New York hospital and had not recently traveled out of the area, according to the statement.

The COVID-19 variant, called B.1.351, is thought to spread more easily than the standard strain of the virus. There is not evidence to suggest the variant causes more severe illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control, but the currently-available vaccines may be less effective against it.

The appearance of the strain comes more than a month after the first confirmed cases of another highly-infectious mutation, commonly called the “U.K. variant.” There are now 42 confirmed cases of that strain in Connecticut, according to Monday’s statement from the Public Health Department.

In a press release, Gov. Ned Lamont said the new variant reinforced the need to take precautions against the virus.

“The virus does not recognize state boundaries, and it certainly does not recognize international borders, which means the responsibility is on all of us to do what we can on a personal basis to mitigate the spread,” Lamont said.

“With the variants currently circulating in the United States and in Connecticut, it is more important than ever to prevent transmission of the virus. We do that by ensuring that masks are being worn correctly and are as effective as possible. Masks should always cover the nose and mouth completely. In some instances, a cloth mask along with a surgical mask may be the best approach according to the CDC, in order to prevent droplets from escaping or entering through gaps in masks,” Gifford said.

Despite the appearance of the new strain, infection rates in Connecticut held under 3% through the weekend at 2.98%. The number of patients hospitalized for the virus in state hospitals continued to decline. Hospitalizations dropped by 56 patients over the weekend to 618.

A month earlier, on Jan. 15, there had been 1,098 COVID patients in Connecticut hospitals. Sixty-six people died from the virus since Friday, bringing the state total to 7,447.

Data from the state on Monday indicated that West Hartford had 41 additional positive cases over the previous three days, and Tuesday’s report indicated six more, bringing the total number of residents that have tested positive to 3,641. There have been 223 fatalities attributed to COVID-19 among West Hartford residents, five of those in the past week.

Cases among residents and staff in nursing homes and assisted living facilities have dropped dramatically, in West Hartford as well as statewide. A majority of residents and a large percentage of staff have received at least one if not two vaccine doses.

A report released Friday by the state indicated that between Feb. 3-9 there were just two new cases among nursing home residents in West Hartford and one among staff, with no fatalities reported. Statewide, 52 nursing home residents were infected and 17 residents died during that seven-day period, and there were 57 infections reported among staff.

From Feb. 3-9, there were no assisted living residents in West Hartford with new cases of COVID-19 reported, and one case among staff. Statewide there were 25 assisted living residents diagnosed and two fatalities, with 27 new cases among staff reported.

Republished with permission from CTNewsJunkie.com, all rights reserved.

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