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New COVID mutation most likely already in Nebraska

Posted at 6:44 PM, Jan 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-20 19:44:59-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The Centers for Disease Control predicts that the new COVID-19 strain from the United Kingdom, B.1.1.7, will be the dominant coronavirus strain in the U.S. by March. UNMC leading infectious disease expert Dr. James Lawler believes the mutated strain is already here in Nebraska.

"I would be surprised if we did not have some of these variants already circulating in Nebraska," he said.

Other coronavirus variants include one stemming from South Africa and another from Brazil.

The B.1.1.7 strain is already in 20 states and is about 50 percent more contagious. Experts believe although the new variant is more contagious, it should not make individuals more sick. The new variant also does not resist the vaccine.

"If we're able to control the outbreak aggressively and we're able to do that through the non-pharmaceutical interventions that we have that I talked about – face masks and crowds and everything else – and we're able to vaccinate lots of people, then potentially we can control things well enough that we prevent or at least limit the number of these variants that continue to pop up," Dr. Lawler said.

There are no confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 strain in Nebraska at this time, but Nebraska Chief Medical Officer and Governor Ricketts mentioned a few weeks ago they believe it's already here, it just isn't being tested as rigorously as typical COVID-19.

"Colorado is obviously our next door neighbor to the west. So, if they have experienced this it seems like we will experience this as well, certainly the western part of the state," Gov. Ricketts said.