LONGVIEW, Washington — The B.1.1.7 COVID-19 virus variant first detected in the United Kingdom
has been found in one Cowlitz County case, signaling the emergence of a more contagious virus strain as COVID-19 cases sharply rise.
Cowlitz County Health and Human Services learned of the case through the state’s electronic disease surveillance system after it was detected by genome sequencing. The individual did not report travelling outside of the United States during a case investigation.
The B.1.1.7 variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is among five variants of concern the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is monitoring. Early evidence shows the variant may be 50% more transmissible and may increase risk of death. More studies are needed to confirm if the variant is associated with an increased risk of death compared to other variants. Studies suggest the COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for use are effective against the B.1.1.7 variant.
Three variants of concern have been detected among 11 Cowlitz County residents since late January. According to recent state data, one county resident was found infected with the B.1.1.7 variant, seven were found infected with the B.1.427 variant, and three were found infected with the B.1.429 variant after testing positive for COVID-19.
“We’ve seen COVID-19 case counts in Cowlitz County increase sharply since mid-March, and right now, about 78% of the county population has not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19,” said Dr. Steven Krager, deputy health officer for Cowlitz County. “Now isn’t the time to let our guard down. With more contagious variants circulating in the community, we need to keep taking steps to stop the spread of the virus to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.”
The average number of new COVID-19 cases added in Cowlitz County rose from 8 new cases per day from March 9-15 to 30 new cases per day from March 30-April 6. The spike is most pronounced in adults age 20-49. Cowlitz County’s case rate for March 21-April 3 was 339 cases per 100,000 residents, leaving the county at a high level of transmission.
The best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 virus variants is to get vaccinated. As of April 15, all people age 16 years and older are eligible to be vaccinated.
The same steps people have already been taking to protect themselves and others from COVID-19 can work against the COVID-19 variants. Those measures include:
• Wearing a well-made, well-fitting face mask, even with people you see regularly and in your smallest social circles.
• Keeping gatherings outside whenever possible.
• Staying at least 6 feet from people you do not live with.
• Avoiding any social gatherings indoors, but if participating, wearing a mask and ensuring windows and doors are open to maximize ventilation.
• Washing your hands often, not touching your face, and carrying hand sanitizer for use when water and soap are not available.
• Staying home if you are sick or if you have been exposed to COVID-19.
• Getting tested for COVID-19 if you have symptoms or were exposed to someone who tested positive.
People who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 should continue to take precautions in public, such as wearing face coverings and maintaining physical distancing.
People who are fully vaccinated can safely gather with others without wearing face coverings if all are vaccinated, or if a vaccinated individual is visiting someone who is not at risk of severe COVID-19. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website for additional information.
To learn more about COVID-19 variants, read the Washington State Department of Health’s April 14 report or visit the CDC’s variants webpage.