More contagious U.K. COVID-19 variant found in Delaware

In order to cope with the demand for COVID-19 vaccines, DMVs in Delaware have been repurposed into megasites for vaccine distribution. (NBC10)

In order to cope with the demand for COVID-19 vaccines, DMVs in Delaware have been repurposed into megasites for vaccine distribution. (NBC10)

Three people who live together in New Castle County, including a child under the age of 10, are the first in Delaware to test positive for the new variant of COVID-19 first identified in the United Kingdom last month.

The three tested positive for the virus earlier this month with mild symptoms. A routine test discovered the new variant.

It’s not exactly clear how they contracted the virus. They did not have any known travel exposure, but they did attend a family gathering with people from another state where the U.K. variant has been found. State health officials say people at that gathering did not consistently wear face coverings or social distance from one another for long periods of time.

It was likely only a matter of time before this variant arrived in Delaware, considering cases have been found in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland.

“It is not entirely surprising news that it is now in Delaware as this variant has appeared in neighboring states over the last month,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health.

“While we understand that people may be concerned, it’s important to know that while preliminary data suggests this variant may spread more easily and quickly than SARS-CoV-2, it is not clear if it may cause more severe illness than the more common coronavirus,” she said.

Other new strains, including those first found in Brazil and South Africa, also appear to spread more rapidly than the original virus.

Rattay said the response to the arrival of the new variant is just to do more of the same: Wear a mask, keep social distancing, and avoid gatherings.

“Our approach and treatments are not any different, but as this new variant is more contagious, it is even more important that we remain vigilant and continue taking the necessary steps to avoid spreading the virus.”

As of Thursday, Delaware has reported 76,935 cases of COVID-19 and 1,078 deaths from coronavirus-related causes. There are 320 people being treated in Delaware hospitals for the virus, down from a pandemic-high of 474 hospitalizations on Jan. 12.

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