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U.K. variant of coronavirus found in Elkhart County

Published: Mar. 18, 2021 at 5:16 PM EDT
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ELKHART COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) - COVID’s cousin has been found in another Michiana county.

Elkhart County is now among the places where the more contagious, perhaps more deadly B.1.1.7 variant has been discovered.

The development did not come as a complete surprise to the county health officer who says people who were following what otherwise seemed like proper COVID protocol against the spread of the disease, were suddenly getting sick anyway in larger than normal clusters.

“This particular variant is more aggressive and so if you’re not wearing a tightly fitted mask, if you’re putting it on and off throughout your activities, you’re going to be at higher risk,” said Dr. Bethany Wait.

The so-called U.K. or United Kingdom variant was first found in the U.S. in December of 2020.

The C.D.C. has since identified a total of 4,686 cases here.

Michigan has had 616 cases (only Florida has had more), while Indiana has had just 57 cases.

“If this variant would have come through, you know, prior to vaccination in November, I think you would seen our numbers would go wild,” said Dr. Wait.

If the variant had to come to Elkhart County at least it is coming at a less vulnerable time—a few months into the county’s COVID vaccination program. “We have targeted our high-risk population. Our population that’s most likely to die. Our population that’s most likely to be hospitalized has been offered the vaccine,” explained Dr. Wait.

Still, Wait believes that crushing COVID in all its forms will require vaccinating a greater portion of the population, at a time when the chore is becoming more difficult.

“We’re kind of ending our retired individuals and now entering into the workforce and we know it’s unrealistic to see that people are going to consistently, in particular factory workers, be able to come to the health department to get their shot or be able to go to one of the local hospitals to get their shots. We are going to have to go to them,” Dr. Wait explained.

The health department plans to rely more on mobile clinics in the future once the supply of vaccine becomes more plentiful and reliable.

The U.K. variant has also been discovered in St. Joseph County, Indiana and in Berrien County, Michigan.

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