The Williamson County and Cities Health District says that the B.1.1.7. variant was discovered and confirmed through lab testing by the Texas Department of State Health Services in March.
WCCHD says that the residents who tested positive have no history of travel and were infected with COVID-19 in early February. The health district also says that variants have likely been in Central Texas for weeks as a Travis County resident with no history of travel was diagnosed with a COVID-19 variant at the beginning of February.
"It is not surprising to see the variant in our community given how rapidly it spreads," said WCCHD Lead Epidemiologist Allison Stewart. "Even though we see a light at the end of this long tunnel with the safe and effective vaccines that have been authorized, we must continue to remain vigilant with our infection prevention practices that we know work: wearing masks any time you’re around people you don’t live with, social distancing, and personal and environmental hygiene."
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The B.1.1.7 variant was first identified in the United Kingdom in the fall and appears to spread much more easily from person to person than most strains of the coronavirus, says WCCHD. It is thought to be responsible for only a small proportion of the current COVID-19 cases in Texas and the United States.
In January 2021, experts in the UK reported that this variant may be associated with an increased risk of death compared to other variant viruses, but more studies are needed to confirm this finding. It has since been detected in many countries around the world. This variant was first detected in the US at the end of December 2020.
At this time, Williamson County remains in the Red Phase, which includes the following recommendations to slow the spread of COVID-19:
- Wear a mask to protect yourself and others and stop the spread of COVID-19.
- Stay at least 6 feet from others who don’t live with you.
- Avoid crowds. The more people you are in contact with, the more likely you are to be exposed to COVID-19.
For more information on Williamson County's response to COVID-19, click here.