On Saturday, students and faculty of West Virginia University were notified of the presence of COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7 on campus.
Genetic sequencing of samples from the WVU Medicine testing program detected the B.1.1.7 variant in Morgantown campus test samples analyzed this week.
According to a University release, it is working closely with the Monongalia County Health Department in its case investigation and contact tracing. It is believed the three individuals who have tested positive for the variant are related to one another and have not visited the WVU campus during their infectious period, two of which are WVU students.
The B.1.1.7 variant originated in the United Kingdom and is believed to be more contagious but not more harmful than the original strain of COVID-19.
Although studies have shown that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine work against the new strain, new variants are set to become the dominant strain in the U.S. within a month, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
With only 5% of the total U.S. population having received both doses of the vaccine, according to the CDC, the likelihood of variants like B.1.1.7. to continue spreading is predictable.
As of Feb. 18, 42 other states have reported 1,523 cases, including all states bordering West Virginia.
“It is critically important that everyone [vaccinated and unvaccinated] continue to mask up, physically distance and wash our hands, particularly at this time when there's light at the end of the tunnel,” said Dr. Sally Hodder, director of the West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute and associate vice president for clinical and translational research at WVU.
The University continues to enforce social distancing guidelines and will be offering free, walk-in community testing open to WVU students, employees and residents of Monongalia County. Testing clinics will be held 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Feb. 22 to 26 at the Rec Center.
“It’s important to remember tools we have to protect ourselves and others,” WVU Health Sciences wrote on Twitter. “A snug-fitting mask with multiple layers of fabric offers both wearer and others protection. The CDC has also shown that wearing two masks help create a tighter sale, and increase effectiveness to 95%.”