The first North Carolina case of COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7 has been reported by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS). The variant, first detected in the United Kingdom in December, was identified in a Mecklenburg County adult according to information released Saturday, Jan. 23.
Dr. Ryan Shelton spoke with WSOC to share more about what this means for Charlotte residents:
A More Contagious Variant
“It’s more contagious, meaning it spreads more easily, but we don’t know that it is any more potent,” Dr. Shelton says.
The variant may not cause a more severe illness, and that is good news. However, COVID-19 is an already easily spread illness so a more contagious variant is concerning.
“There’s the higher chance that people are going to catch it more easily and we’re going to have more sick people,” Dr. Shelton explains. “That downstream effect means more strain on frontline workers and our hospitals with the increased potential need for care.”
Time to “Double-Down on the Basics”
Since mutations are typical behavior for viruses, Dr. Shelton says he’s not surprised the new variant has made its way to Charlotte. What this does mean is that it’s important to “double-down on the basics” including mask-wearing, social distancing and staying home, avoiding gatherings.
“We’ve really got to dial-up our due diligence,” Dr. Shelton says, recognizing that many are feeling “COVID fatigue” from months of precautions. But, now is the time to do the basics and master them, including getting the vaccine.
“What a blessing that we have such a powerful weapon to fight this illness,” Dr. Shelton says of the COVID-19 vaccines. He highlights there is no evidence the vaccines won’t protect against the new virus variant.
For more information about COVID-19, the vaccination and vaccine distribution, visit Tryon’s COVID-19 resources.