AUSTIN, TX — The first case of the UK COVID-19 variant has been confirmed in Austin-Travis County.
According to the City of Austin, the variant was discovered and confirmed through lab testing by a private local testing organization and was reported to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
“While it is concerning that there is a confirmed COVID-19 variant in Austin-Travis County, it does not come as a surprise,” said Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden-Howard. “It is important to remember that these COVID-19 variants spread the same way, and so it is important to continue the prevention measures we have been using for almost a year. People need to keep wearing a mask, social distancing, avoiding gatherings, and washing your hands frequently.”
Officials said COVID-19 variants have likely been in Austin-Travis County for weeks.
Austin Public Health lab testing will detect the coronavirus, but extended lab testing is required to determine the variant strains under the coronavirus umbrella.
“It is common for viruses to mutate, especially when the original virus is in the community longer. Based on everything we have heard from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while the variants are potentially more contagious than the original virus, they are not more deadly,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Interim Austin-Travis Health Authority. “From our understanding, currently approved vaccines are effective against the variants, and while this may be a reason to reemphasize the importance of prevention measures, it is not cause for alarm.”