Arizona Sees Increase In More Transmissible COVID-19 Variant

Published: Wednesday, March 10, 2021 - 3:11pm
Updated: Wednesday, March 10, 2021 - 6:17pm
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Arizona State University
Joshua LaBaer

The ASU Biodesign Institute has tracked a steady increase in the number of positive COVID-19 tests in Arizona that carry the B.1.1.7 variant first spotted in the U.K. 

The laboratory started seeing occasional instances of the B.1.1.7 variant throughout the fall and winter, but in the last two weeks, the variant has appeared much more frequently, Biodesign Institute director, Dr. Joshua LaBaer, told reporters Wednesday.

“The fraction of positive cases due to this U.K. variant is much higher in Arizona than it used to be," LaBaer said. 

New COVID cases have declined overall in Arizona recently, but LaBaer said as many as 20% of samples his lab has looked at in the last two weeks have shown the B.1.1.7 variant. 

This strain of the virus is known to be more transmissible and more deadly, though vaccines still appear to offer protection from it. He said Arizona could soon be in a race between the variant and vaccinations and said the best vaccine to get is whichever one you have access to earliest.

“All three of the vaccines in the U.S. prevent death, it prevents ICU infection or severe infection, so they have excellent protection for the things that matter the most, which is severe illness," LaBaer said. 

About 20% of Arizonans have had at least one dose of a vaccine as of Wednesday, but LaBaer said there’s still the possibility of another wave of infections since most of the population is still unvaccinated.

→ Q&AZ: What You Need To Know About Getting The Coronavirus Vaccine In Arizona

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