More Infectious COVID-19 Variant Found in Thurston County

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Two cases of a possibly more infectious COVID-19 variant were reportedly found in Thurston County. 

According to a Tuesday news release from Thurston County, Washington state Department of Health on Friday notified Thurston County Public Health and Social Services that two cases of the B.1.351 COVID-19, also known as the South African variant, were found in the county. 

Both Thurston County residents carrying the variant were initially tested for the virus on Feb. 22. The tests were also sent to a private lab contracted by DoH for genome sequencing as part of a statewide and nationwide effort to identify COVID-19 variants. 

This is a concern since the South African variant is one found to possibly be more transmissible, and some treatments and vaccines may be less effective against it, according to the county. 

More studies are currently being conducted to better understand the variant. 

"While we are very encouraged our cases have been low and trending down over the last month, knowing a variant of concern, such as B.1.351, being detected in Thurston County is a stark reminder that this pandemic isn't over yet and we shouldn't let our guard down too soon," said Schelli Slaughter, director of Thurston County Public Health and Social Services, in a statement. "As we enter Phase 3, there are more opportunities to transmit the virus from one person to another."

Here are some additional numbers related to the coronavirus situation, both regionally and nationally, that were reported as of Tuesday:

• Thurston County Public Health and Social Services reported one new death on Tuesday. The latest person to die from the respiratory infection was a man in his 80s. The death toll stands at 76. The county also reported 15 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total up to 7,631. The county has reported 85.7 cases per 100,000 people over the last 14 days. 

• The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department reported 81 new cases and no new deaths on Tuesday. The death toll from the virus stands at 499 Pierce County residents. The total number of cases stands at 38,237. Transmission remains moderate with Pierce County over the last two weeks reporting 175.6 cases per 100,000 people. 

• The state Department of Health has reported a total 334,841 confirmed cases, 20,195 hospitalizations, and 5,186 deaths. So far, a total 2.82 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the state, with about 3.14 million doses having been so far delivered to the state and its providers. An average 46,103 doses are being administered every seven days. Approximately 13.83 percent of Washingtonians have been fully vaccinated.

• The total number of COVID-19 deaths on Monday stood at 540,503, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A total of 29,708,385 cases have been confirmed thus far. A total 128 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered nationwide. 

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