BREAKING NEWS: COVID-19 alpha variant identified in NMI
The Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. and the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force recently received confirmation that a COVID-19 specimen sent in May 2021 to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was identified as the alpha variant, B.1.1.7.
There is no current risk to the public.
The specimen came from a traveler who tested positive upon arrival in April from Guam. The traveler was quarantined and had only one contact who also tested positive for COVID-19, but was not identified as a variant. The first reports of variants in Guam were from specimens collected between January and April 2021.
The CNMI is one of the last places in the U.S. to report its first case of a variant of concern. This variant has also been found in 164 different locations globally, including almost all of the CNMI’s Pacific neighbors.
According to the CDC, the alpha variant comprised nearly 60% of COVID-19 cases reported in the U.S. from May 23 to June 5, and it has been found in over 53 U.S. jurisdictions. The alpha variant was first detected in the U.S. in December 2020. It was initially detected in the United Kingdom. It is a variant of concern for which there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease (e.g., increased hospitalizations or deaths), significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures.
The CHCC and the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force would like to remind residents to practice caution. With its increased transmissibility of 50%, it is even more important to practice the 3 Ws (wear a mask, wash your hands, and watch your distance) and get vaccinated to help prevent the creation of even more variants and spread of COVID-19.
Consider registering for COVID-19 vaccinations at www.vaccinatecnmi.com, by calling the CHCC call center at 682-SHOT (7468), or registering in person at any vaccination site. (PR)