Health officials push vigilance after UK coronavirus variant identified

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In the wake of health officials identifying the United Kingdom variant of the coronavirus in Morgantown, West Virginia health officials are urging residents to be cautious and continue practicing pandemic protocols.

West Virginia University confirmed two of the three cases are connected to the institution. State coronavirus czar Dr. Clay Marsh said the individuals have not been on the main campus.

Dr. Clay Marsh
Dr. Clay Marsh (File)

“We want to make sure this virus stays as limited as possible,” he said during Monday’s statewide coronavirus briefing. “If it’s limited within a small cohort, then that can be controlled.”

State officials have advised residents throughout the pandemic to wear facial coverings and practice social distancing. Marsh noted people should not be afraid to go out as long as they maintain effective coronavirus practices.

“We have the capabilities to track this, and that’s important and we’re actively tracking it now,” he added.

Dr. Ayne Amjad, West Virginia state health officer, said the United Kingdom variant is contagious; other mutations have been traced to Brazil and South Africa.

“We do want to remain cautious and vigilant,” she said.

Researchers from West Virginia University and Marshall University have begun genome sequencing to provide officials an indication of the virus’s progress in West Virginia.

“Having this capability now in West Virginia will facilitate and allow us to track very closely any new outbreaks to see if the variant virus is responsible,” Marsh said.

The state Department of Health and Human Resources reported Sunday the state is now below 9,000 active coronavirus cases; officials recorded more than 23,000 active cases a month ago.

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