U.K. variant of COVID found in county

Chad Frey
The Kansan

A COVID-19 variant first found in the United Kingdom has made its way to Harvey County, with the Harvey County Health Department reporting the first five cases of variant "B.1.1.7."

"That is the UK variant that is highly contagious," said Lynette Redington, director of the Harvey County Health Department. 

According to the Center for Disease Control, B.1.1.7:  was first identified in the U.S. in December 2020. It was initially detected in the United Kingdom. 

The CDC has identified four variants, with two of those identified in Harvey County in the past two weeks. 

COVID-19

According to the CDC, these variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19.

"Variants are a strain that is changing. As with flu, it can change," Redington said.

May 4 the county health department reported 29 active cases in the county, with 28 new cases in one week. During the same time period, new coronavirus cases leaped in Kansas in the week ending Sunday, rising 16.3% as 1,717 cases were reported. The previous week had 1,476 new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19.

 Since the pandemic began, there have been 66 deaths in Harvey County from COVID-19. 

The county has hit a vaccination rate of  406.3 per thousand people with at least one dose of vaccine, which places the county seventh in the state out of the 105 counties.  The county is ninth in the state for completed vaccinations for those 16 and over. 

"We are now telling folks to vaccines.gov. It will take you to the sites for more information about vaccines," Redington said. 

The Health Department hosted a vaccination clinic for second shots only at the Chisholm Trail Mall last week, with 180 people getting their second dose. Redington said that was the final clinic for that location, as demand for vaccinations have waned. The department is preparing a clinic for Sedgwick in an effort to get to area towns. 

Meanwhile  Kansas ranked 26th among states in share of people receiving at least one shot, with 42.9% of its residents at least partially vaccinated. The national rate is 44.3%, a USA TODAY analysis of CDC data shows. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are the most used in the United States, require two doses administered a few weeks apart.

As the vaccination effort has been moving forward, the county has tracked two "breakthrough" cases — people who have contracted COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated.