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State health department confirms two cases of COVID-19 variant in Tennessee

Tennessee is now one of 24 states across the U.S. to see confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 UK variant of Covid-19. (File Photo)

BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. — Move over COVID-19 here comes. B.1.1.7. also known as the U.K. variant.

On Monday, Tennessee Department of Health officials confirmed that the new COVID-19 variant named B.1.1.7 had made its way four hours northeast of Lynchburg to Blountville located near the Tennessee, Virginia line. Two cases were confirmed and both individuals were being quarantined. Virginia official also confirmed on case of B.1.1.7 in their state. After emerging from the U.K. in September, the first U.S. case happened in December. As of this week, the CDC reports that there are now 195 total cases reported in the U.S. across 24 states.

B.1.1.7 isn’t the first time the Novel Coronavirus has mutated and it won’t be the last. Virus mutation happen when infected cells change or delete one of its amino acids and the process is completely normal. Health officials have also identified variants from Europe, South America (variant P.1), and African (variant B.1.351) inside the U.S. In response, President Joe Biden reinstated temporary travel restrictions to those countries early this week. He also signed an executive order requiring masks for any person crossing a state line via bus, plane or train.

Health officials describe this new variant to be more contagious than the virus currently circulating across the United States. It’s now the prevalent strand in the U.K. and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention forecast earlier this month that B.1.1.7 will become the dominant strain of SARS-CoV-2 circulating in the country by March. 

Even if this new variant doesn’t prove to be more deadly in Tennessee, the real concern would be that rapid transmission might threaten to overwhelm already strained local healthcare systems and thus, lead indirectly, to more deaths.

Because most mutations don’t alter the virus’s basic biology or how the human immune system responds to it, scientist anticipate that both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines will work on new Coronavirus variants but they say they are monitoring the situation closely. Regardless, Tennessee health officials say they want to get as many Tennesseans vaccinated as quickly as possible and ask the general public to double down on public health precautions like social distancing, avoiding large gatherings, and wearing a mask when social distancing is not possible.

For more information about the B.1.1.7 variant and it’s spread across Tennessee, visit the Tennessee Department of Health website by clicking here. •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only independently owned and operated community newspaper in Lynchburg, Tennessee. We cover Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

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