Shawnee County records three cases of more contagious U.K. variant of COVID-19
Shawnee County's health department announced Tuesday that three cases of the more-contagious U.K. variant of COVID-19 have been identified in the county.
The B.1.1.7 variants were confirmed by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment Tuesday morning, a news release said, and are the first such cases for Shawnee County.
There have been other instances of the variant in other parts of Kansas, a total of at least 30 cases.
“With the confirmation of the B.1.1.7 variant in Shawnee County and the recent uptick of COVID-19 cases in Shawnee County and across the nation, it is important that we as a community continue to do what we can to limit the spread of the virus,” said Erin Locke, the county's health officer. “It’s important to not get complacent; we continue to promote proper mask wear and encourage all eligible Shawnee County residents to get vaccinated when they are able.”
The news, however, comes a day after the county made its mask mandate looser, giving any party the ability to opt out of it. That action was in response to legislation by GOP state lawmakers who viewed such COVID-19 orders as infringing on individual rights.
Statewide and nationwide, many governments have been rolling back restrictions as it seems the pandemic is residing. But in some places, some virus case numbers are ticking up a bit, causing concern.
Public health experts worry about a potential fourth wave of infections as people relax restrictions, especially as such variants as the U.K. version become more prevalent.
According to the Washington Post, new cases jumped by as much as 12% nationwide, and the seven-day average of new cases crept above 63,000 for the first time in nearly a month.
It will also be a race between the number of variant cases against the number of vaccinations. Kansas this week opened eligibility for all Kansas adults to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and health officials are trying to reach herd immunity as fast as possible.
According to a recent study, the U.K. variant is associated with a 64% higher risk of dying from COVID-19 than earlier strains. But so far, it seems the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have proven effective enough against the U.K. strain.