On Monday the Minnesota Department of Health announced they have found a more contagious COVID-19 variant in a local citizen, marking the first confirmed U.S. case of the virus offshoot which had first turned up in Brazil.
Note that, with this variant, while it is "more contagious," it's not known whether it's more severe.
According to a press release, the strain showed up through the health department's variant surveillance program, which had been collecting 50 random samples weekly.
State health officials say that the patient who was infected with the Brazil variant is a resident of the Twin Cities metro area. That person had recently traveled to, you probably guessed, Brazil.
In the first week of January that person fell ill. A specimen was collected from them on January 9.
“We’re thankful that our testing program helped us find this case, and we thank all Minnesotans who seek out testing when they feel sick or otherwise have reason to get a test,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm via a statement. “We know that even as we work hard to defeat COVID-19, the virus continues to evolve as all viruses do.”
The strain from Brazil, which has been dubbed P.1, was first turned up in a routine screening given in Tokyo, Japan to four travelers entering that country from Brazil. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that P.1 had a set of additional mutations which could potentially hinder the ability of antibodies to recognize it.
New variants of the coronavirus have turned up in the U.K. and South Africa, in addition to Brazil. Health officials have expressed concern that vaccines currently being circulated may not be able to guard against these more contagious strains as effectively. On Monday, Moderna said they were putting together a booster shot to protect against the South African strain. Also on Monday, Joe Biden extended travel restrictions for 26 Europe countries, as well as the U.K. and Brazil, while adding a new restriction for South Africa.