DENVER — After Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and state health officials announced Tuesday the state's first case of the COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.7, the same variant discovered in the U.K, officials confirmed they are investigating another possible case of the COVID-19 variant.
State epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy said during a press conference Wednesday morning that along with the one confirmed case, there is another possible case. Both cases are Colorado National Guard personnel who were deployed to work at a nursing home in Elbert County. These two people were labeled COVID-19 positive in mid-December prior to the variant being discovered.
A release from Polis' office said the Colorado State Laboratory confirmed and notified the Center for Disease Control of the case, a man who is in his 20s who is currently in isolation in Elbert County and has no travel history. He is recovering in isolation and will remain there until cleared by public health officials.
In Wednesday morning's press conference, Polis said it is unlikely the first person in the U.S., but he is proud it was able to be detected quickly in the state. He said there is no evidence that shows the variant produces worse symptoms.
Dr. Emily Travanty, scientific director of CDPHE's Laboratory Services Division, said the state was able to identify the variant through regular testing but identifying an "S" gene that is the signature marker of the variant. The possible case's genome is being investigated and officials are anticipating an answer within one week.
The release said public health officials are doing a thorough investigation.
“There is a lot we don’t know about this new COVID-19 variant, but scientists in the United Kingdom are warning the world that it is significantly more contagious. The health and safety of Coloradans is our top priority and we will closely monitor this case, as well as all COVID-19 indicators, very closely. We are working to prevent spread and contain the virus at all levels,” said Governor Jared Polis. “I want to thank our scientists and dedicated medical professionals for their swift work and ask Coloradans to continue our efforts to prevent disease transmission by wearing masks, standing six feet apart when gathering with others, and only interacting with members of their immediate household.”
Scientists in the U.K. believe the B.1.1.7 variant to be more contagious than previously identified strains of the SARS-CoV-2 variant, though no more severe in symptoms, the state from the governor's office said. In addition, the currently approved vaccines are thought to be effective against this variant.
The release added that the Colorado state lab was the first in the country to identify the variant.
“The fact that Colorado has detected this variant first in the nation is a testament to the sophistication of Colorado's response and the talent of CDPHE's scientist and lab operations,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “We are currently using all the tools available to protect public health and mitigate the spread of this variant.”
Polis also announced Wednesday morning that Coloradans who are ages 70 and older will be able to receive vaccines as they move enter Phase 1B of the state's vaccination distribution plan with officials hoping to get through vaccinations within four to five weeks.