Governor Larry Hogan announced Saturday that state health officials had confirmed a case of the new B.1.351 variant in an adult female living in the Baltimore metro region who had no recent travel history overseas, sparking concerns that the strain is already spreading in the community.
The case comes just two days after two South Carolina residents became the first Americans found to have contracted the South African strain, despite also having no recent travel history and no known connection to each other.
There is no evidence to suggest the new strain is more deadly but it is around 50 percent more infectious and Dr. Fauci has warned the vaccine may be less effective against it.
It’s become a race to ramp up the vaccination program and get shots in the arms of Americans as the US recorded more than 166,000 new cases and more than 3,600 people died in the last 24 hours.
Hard-hit California, where Governor Gavin Newsom lifted the lockdown this week, marked a grim record Saturday morning as it topped 40,000 deaths since the pandemic began.
The South African ‘super’ COVID-19 variant has now spread to Maryland with the state recording its first case in a woman in Baltimore and the third case confirmed overall on US soil
Governor Hogan said Saturday officials are ‘closely monitoring’ the emergence of the new strain in the Free State and urged residents to practice ‘extra caution’ to help limit the spread.
Contract tracing efforts are underway to try to identify anyone who was in contact with the individual so they are can be tested and quarantine.
‘State health officials are closely monitoring the B.1.351 variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the state,’ Logan said in a statement.
‘We strongly encourage Marylanders to practice extra caution to limit the additional risk of transmission associated with this variant.
‘Please continue to practice standard public health and safety measures, including mask wearing, regular hand washing, and physical distancing.’
Governor Larry Hogan announced Saturday that state health officials had confirmed a case of the new B.1.351 variant in an adult female living in the Baltimore metro region who had no recent travel history overseas, sparking concerns that the strain is already spreading in the community
Other details about the case such as the woman’s age and her condition are not known.
The South African strain is the second new variant found in Maryland after the state confirmed its first case of the UK strain B.1.1.7 back on January 12.
Since then, seven cases of that strain have been confirmed in the state.
The South African strain was first confirmed to have landed in the US Thursday when South Carolina officials confirmed the two cases – one in the state’s easternmost ‘Pee Dee’ region and the other in the ‘Lowcountry’ region to the south.
The two are both adults, but the state health department has released no further details about their identities.
What is known is that all three confirmed cases in the US are in people with no recent international travel history, meaning it is likely already silently spreading among communities and that cases likely stretch far beyond the few cases confirmed.
It’s the second new variant reported in the US this week, after Minnesota confirmed the first known American case of the P1 variant from Brazil.
There are now three strains of the mutated ‘super COVID’ circulating the US – the South African, the UK and the Brazil strains.
Overall, 437 cases of the variants have now been confirmed in the US.
There is no evidence the South African is more deadly or causes more serious illness but it is thought to be more contagious.
Meanwhile the Brazilian strain is feared to be causing re-infection among people who contracted the original strain.
Dr. Fauci this week also said the UK variant appears to be more deadly but that he is most concerned about the South African variant because it is thought to make vaccines less effective.
Moderna and Pfizer said preliminary lab tests suggest their vaccines are ‘protective’ against the South African variant, but admitted it does diminish the effectiveness.
With the new strains in mind, Fauci warned Thursday that the health crisis ‘could get worse’.
On Friday, another 3,604 Americans died from the virus, taking the US death toll to 436,799, according to the tally by Johns Hopkins University.
This was down from the 4,000 deaths recorded Thursday and the nation’s deadliest day when 4,466 died on January 12.
New cases also fell Friday to 166,113 from 168,620 the day before.
Total infections have now topped 25.9 million since the pandemic first started ravaging the nation last year.
Los Angeles residents are flocking to restaurants for the first time in two months as outdoor dining has reopened
Patients rest in a hallway in the overloaded Emergency Room area at Providence St. Mary Medical Center in California as the state passes the grim milestone of 40,000 deaths
California passed the grim milestone of 40,000 deaths, as 664 died Friday.
This takes the state’s death toll to 40,238 after it struggled to contain a winter outbreak and the healthcare systems were on the brink of collapse.
It took six months for California to record its first 10,000 deaths, then four months to double to 20,000. In just five weeks, the state reached 30,000 and it took just 20 days to get to 40,000.
To date, one in 1,000 Californians have died from the virus.
Almost 20,000 new cases were also recorded Friday with 19,626 infections. This is markedly down from the 14-day rolling average of more than 40,000 daily cases at the end of December.
Despite cases, deaths and hospitalizations still being high, Governor Gavin Newsom announced Monday he was lifting the regional stay-at-home order saying California is experiencing a ‘flattening of the curve.’
‘Everything that should be up is up, everything that should be down is down – case rates, positivity rates, hospitalizations, ICUs,’ he said.
This led to the reopening of outdoor dining in hard-hit areas such as Los Angeles where 1.1 million have been infected and 16,332 have died since the pandemic began.
Health experts and the new Biden administration say getting Americans vaccinated is critical to getting the nation back up and running.
To date, 28.9 million doses have been administered, with 7.2 percent of the population receiving the first dose and 1.5 percent also the second, according to Bloomberg data.
But the rollout has been slow on both a federal and state level.
Biden on Monday upped his COVID-19 vaccination goal to 1.5 million doses every day – equivalent to 150 million in his first 100 days in office.
This marked an increase from his promise of 100 million shots in 100 days laid out in the days before he was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States.
Biden faced criticism for this goal as it emerged the US had already exceeded the pace of 1 million doses per day.
Over the last week, an average of 1.3 million doses have been administered each day.
In the meantime, the CDC is mandating masks are worn on all public transport nationwide.
The CDC announced an order late Friday that people must wear a face mask on any form of public transport, including buses, trains, taxis, airplanes, boats, subways or ride-share vehicles while traveling into, within and out of the US.
It states that people are required to wear them while waiting, boarding, traveling and disembarking and that scarves and bandanas do not count as masks.
Criminal penalties may be issued against anyone who does not comply the order states.
The order will go into effect from midnight Monday.
A woman receives the vaccine in a Sarasota shopping center. To date, 28.9 million doses have been administered, with 7.2 percent of the population receiving the first dose and 1.5 percent also the second, according to Bloomberg data