Health officials in a Colorado county believe they’ve found a second local case of a coronavirus variant from the United Kingdom — one that experts have said may be especially contagious.
That news Wednesday came a day after the first known case of the variant in the US was announced in Elbert County.
Both the confirmed case and the suspected instance involve National Guard members who had been working at the Good Samaritan Society assisted living facility in Simla, about 45 miles northeast of Colorado Springs, health officials said.
Neither are residents of Elbert County, and they are isolating outside the county, health director Dwayne Smith said. There is “no indication at this point” that this event has gone beyond the facility and into the larger community, he said.
The men were part of a team of six Guard members deployed to the Good Samaritan Society–Simla after a recent outbreak of Covid-19 caused a staff shortage.
The first man had no known travel history, Gov. Jared Polis said Tuesday. In part because of that, there is a good chance the variant has been spreading within the community, William Haseltine, chair and president of the global health think tank ACCESS Health International, told CNN on Wednesday.
The variant emerged in the UK in September, and US health officials have said in recent days as it became prevalent in the United Kingdom that it was probably already in the United States.
In California, San Diego Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said a 30-year-old man with no travel history has the UK variant of the virus.
The Colorado health department has been in communication with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about its cases. Smith did not know when the variant could be verified or ruled out definitively in the second person, he said. He was not able to comment on travel history for the men and said the state health department notified the county about the two men on Tuesday afternoon.
The “two individuals were working at the facility in non-clinical roles,” Smith said. “The state health department has deployed a rapid response team to the assisted living facility in Simla to test residents and staff.”
Randy Fitzgerald, Good Samaritan Society regional vice president, said they expect results from those tests in a few days. Facility officials will “work closely with the state while following the CDC’s infection control measures,” he added.
Vaccinations will take place next week, he said.
The Good Samaritan Society had a Covid-19 outbreak in the past two and a half weeks, and at least two people — a 93-year-old man and an 88-year-old woman — died, Smith said. A third death is being investigated, he said. The facility is home to about 25 residents.
Scientists advising the UK government have estimated the variant could be up to 70% more effective at spreading than others. Scientists were “confident” the new variant is “spreading faster than other virus variants,” Peter Horby, chair of the UK’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, said last week.
Health authorities from around the world have said the UK variant, though believed to be more easily spread, does not appear to be more deadly than previously identified coronavirus strains. Many countries have banned flights from the United Kingdom, and the CDC recently announced passengers from London to the United States will need a negative coronavirus test from the previous 72 hours.