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Additional cases of UK variant confirmed in state

Friday, January 29, 2021

Two more cases of the U.K. variant of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Louisiana, and test results for 14 more suspected cases are under investigation, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday.

The two new cases, one in the Lake Charles area and the other in the New Orleans area, bring to three the number of cases of the more contagious strain discovered in the state since Jan. 16. The first case was also in the New Orleans area.

Of the suspected cases under investigation, eight of those are in the New Orleans area and six in the Lake Charles area, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.

The U.K. variant, also known as SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7, is emerging just as the state appears to be plateauing from the third wave of COVID-19. But this time the plateau is higher than that of either of the previous two surges, and community spread of the virus continues, Edwards said.

“That’s why the mitigation measures may be more important than they’ve ever been. … I’m asking the people of Louisiana to be more diligent,” Edwards said during his weekly CO-VID-19 update.

Edwards warned the U.K. variant of the coronavirus could be the dominant strain in the state by March. Because of that, it’s important to lower Louisiana’s high baseline numbers on new cases and hospitalizations, the governor said.

“We all need to take this very, very seriously,” Edwards said.

The U.K. variant cases confirmed this far are “the tip of the iceberg,” Dr. Joe Kanter, Louisiana’s chief health officer, said.

“We anticipate those cases will grow,” Kanter said.

Louisiana’s biggest challenge right now is the amount of COVID-19 vaccine it’s getting. Demand for the vaccine continues to outpace what’s available, Kanter said.

Starting next week, the state will get a 16% increase in the amount of Moderna vaccine it receives.

Researchers have said both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are effective against the U.K. variant as well as the SARS-CoV-2 strain that’s gripped the nation for almost a year.

Edwards continued to push wearing masks, social distancing and frequent handwashing as ways to stop the CO-VID-19 spread. He also pushed the state’s new phone app COVID Defense.

The free tracking app sends users notifications informing them if they have been near other app users who have tested positive for the virus.

Meantime, LDH has confirmed 3,103 cases of COVID-19 in Lincoln Parish since the virus was first discovered here last March. The local death toll now stands at 81, with three more deaths possibly related to COVID-19.