Eight more cases of a COVID-19 variant first discovered in the United Kingdom and believed to be more transmissible have been discovered in Chicago and suburban Cook County, state health officials announced Monday.
The variant, known as B.1.1.7, was identified in samples of COVID-19 positive tests, according to the statement from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
In all, nine cases of the COVID-19 variant have been discovered in people aged 12 to 63 who live in Chicago and suburban Cook County, state health officials said.
The variant was discovered in samples collected between Dec. 29, 2020 and Jan. 15. The discovery of the first case of the COVID-19 variant was announced by Chicago Department of Public Health officials on Jan. 15.
“With reports of this variant already in many states in the (United States), we anticipated its spread here in Illinois,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “Early studies have found that this variant spreads more easily than what we have seen with the current prevailing variant. We are following closely to see if there is evidence that infections by this variant cause more severe disease or death. Based on the information available now, the vaccine will still be effective. Continued masking and vaccination when it is your turn remain our best path to defeating this virus as quickly as possible.”
Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said her department would work with state officials as they expand testing for this, and other, variants.
The COVID-19 virus — also known as SARS-CoV-2 — constantly changes through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time, officials said.
State and city officials allowed limited indoor dining and drinking to resume Saturday in Chicago and suburban Cook County after the regions’ coronavirus test positivity rates fell significantly, hospital capacity remained ample and the number of hospitalized residents dropped.