Variant strains of the coronavirus have arrived in Archuleta and La Plata counties, according to San Juan Basin Public Health.
The health department confirmed two cases of the variant first recorded in California, including one case in Archuleta County and one case in La Plata County on the Southern Ute reservation. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe announced the presence of the variant Saturday.
“The presence of variants in Southwest Colorado is troubling and means virus transmission could happen more easily,” said Liane Jollon, SJBPH executive director, in a news release. “Residents need to double down and commit to taking extra precautions to protect ourselves and others from the coronavirus.”
SJBPH encouraged residents of Archuleta County and the Bayfield and Ignacio areas to be tested for COVID-19 in response to the discovery of the California variant, called B.1.427/B.1.429.
With the first confirmed variant cases in Archuleta and La Plata counties, SJBPH also believes other variants could be spreading locally.
Variants of the coronavirus were first recorded in Brazil, the United Kingdom, South Africa, California and New York City.
As the virus evolves, some variants disappear over time, others persist. Each one raises questions about the strain’s infectivity, impact on COVID-19 disease severity and treatment effectiveness.
For example, the U.K. variant spreads more easily and quickly than other variants. In January, experts in the U.K. reported the variant may be associated with an increased risk of death compared with other variant viruses, but more studies are needed to confirm the finding, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC is investigating the California variant to determine the infectivity of the variant, SJBPH said in the release.
CDC research indicates the current COVID-19 vaccines provide protections against the emerging variants, but research is ongoing, the news release said. For information about COVID-19 vaccines and to sign-up to receive vaccine notifications, visit https://sjbpublichealth.org/covid-19-vaccine/
SJBPH said the best defense against virus variants is to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through public health precautions, including testing and quarantine, when appropriate. The health department also emphasized maintaining social distancing and wearing snugly fitting masks.
SJBPH provides free COVID-19 testing at these locations:
Archuleta County Community Testing Site provides testing from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the Archuleta County Fairgrounds, 344 U.S. Highway 84, in the all-weather Hughes Pavilion, Pagosa Springs.La Plata County Community Testing Site provides testing from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays and Saturdays at the La Plata County Fairgrounds, 2500 Main Ave., Durango.Bayfield Community Testing Site provides testing from 9 a.m. to noon Wednesdays at the Upper Pine Fire Protection District Administration Building, 515 Sower Drive, Bayfield.email@example.com