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Missouri reports first South African coronavirus variant case


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) reported its first case of the South African COVID-19 variant Tuesday evening. 

The case was identified as a patient in Jackson County. DHSS Director Dr. Randall Williams said vaccines should be effective against the variant, known as B.1.35.

“We continue to encourage prevention measures to be in place as we identify more positive cases of these variants,” Williams said in a statement. “We also continue to ask that individuals consider getting vaccinated when they are able. The vaccines that are currently available in the United States appear to be effective against these variant viruses.”

At this point, DHSS said the variant is not known to spread more quickly than other strains or cause more severe illnesses. The strain was first identified in South Africa in December with confirmed cases in the U.S. by the end of January. According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 374 cases of the variant have been confirmed in 34 states as of Tuesday. 

Another variant originating in the U.K. was first identified in Missouri in February, with 35 cases confirmed so far. According to DHSS, evidence from the U.K. showed that strain possibly spreading at a faster rate than the base virus. 

Missouri is in the second phase of its COVID-19 vaccination plan, with the third phase expanding access to all Missourians Friday. As of Tuesday evening, 1.7 million Missourians have received an initial dose of the vaccine, making up 28.4 percent of the population. More than 1.07 million Missourians have been fully inoculated. 

Missouri reported its first coronavirus case in March 2020 in St. Louis. 491,442 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed as of Tuesday evening, with 8,508 deaths recorded.