A local woman has tested positive for the worrisome COVID-19 variant first detected in the United Kingdom after attending a large gathering with more than 60 people from multiple states.
The Washoe County Health District confirmed Friday it is the first case of the COVID-19 variant detected in the county.
The confirmed case was a female in her 30s. So far there have been reports of 17 additional COVID-19 infections linked to the gathering she attended, though not all of the 17 cases are Washoe County residents.
The health district did not disclose the type of gathering that the woman attended other than to say it was a “private social gathering,” according to spokesman Scott Oxarart.
Additional testing is underway to determine if more of the confirmed cases so far are the UK, or B.1.1.7, variant; however, many specimens are not available for genomic sequencing.
Extensive contact tracing has been conducted on all confirmed cases linked to this gathering who are Washoe County residents, officials said.
“This is a stark reminder that we are not out of the woods with COVID-19,” said Kevin Dick, District Health Officer for Washoe County. “We suspected that this variant which originated in the UK was present in Washoe County weeks ago but it’s now confirmed.”
The health district recommended that people continue to not attend large gatherings, and follow district guidance and the governor’s directives.
“It’s important for people to remain vigilant against COVID-19 and always cooperate with disease investigators so we can conduct adequate contact tracing to ensure that we help limit the spread of the virus,” said Dick.
According to the CDC, this variant that originated in the UK is “associated with increased transmissibility (i.e., more efficient and rapid transmission, including an increased risk of death compared to other variants),” according to a health district press release on Friday.
This is the second variant of concern reported in Washoe County. The first was the variant that originated in South Africa, B.1.351.
Regarding whether the currently approved COVID-19 vaccines are effective against this variant, the CDC has said that “studies suggest that antibodies generated through vaccination with currently authorized vaccines recognize these variants. This is being closely investigated and more studies are underway.”
Jenny Kane covers arts and culture in Northern Nevada, as well as the dynamic relationship between the state and the growing Burning Man community. She also covers the state’s burgeoning cannabis industry (Check out her podcast, the Potcast, on iTunes.) Support her work in Reno by subscribing to RGJ.com right here.