SANTA FE – A more contagious variant of COVID-19 has been detected in New Mexico, state officials confirmed Wednesday.
The New Mexico Health Department said the first known case of the variant in the state involves a man in his 60s who traveled to the U.K. in December. His illness was described as mild and officials said he did not require hospitalization.
Health officials said in a statement that the department at this point has not identified any close contacts by the man within the state.
“There is no evidence that the variant has an impact on the severity of COVID-19 cases, nor on current vaccine effectiveness,” the health department said.
The variant has spread to multiple counties and several U.S. states since first emerging in September. U.K. officials said Wednesday they are accelerating efforts to inoculate millions of vulnerable people as the variant sweeps across Britain and drives hospitals to their breaking points.
In New Mexico, hospitalizations related to the virus have decreased. Medical officials with some of the state’s largest health care providers reported during a briefing Monday that hospitals are still busy but mostly with non-COVID-19 cases.
The state has reported nearly 158,000 confirmed infections since the pandemic began.