The more contagious South African variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has been found in North Carolina.
The state Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday that the variant was found in a sample from an adult in the central part of the state who had not recently traveled.
Five states have reported cases of infection with the South African variant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. North Carolina has also found 21 cases of the UK variant. These variants appear to spread more quickly, the CDC said. Studies suggest that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines work against them.
“While we anticipated the arrival of the B.1.351 variant in NC, it’s a reminder that the fight against COVID-19 is not over. The emergence of variants that are more infectious means it’s more important than ever to do what we know works to slow the spread — wear a mask, wash your hands, wait 6 feet apart, and get vaccinated when it’s your turn,” Dr. Mandy Cohen, state Department of Health and Human Services secretary, said in a statement.
With more easily-transmitted variants discovered in the U.S., public health officials are urge people up their mask-wearing practices.
The CDC released a study this week on better-fitting masks and double masks offering better protection from aerosols. Wearing a cloth mask over a medical procedure mask or a tight-fitting medical procedure mask reduced exposure to aerosols by about 95%, the study said.
Using masks with nose wires, wearing a cloth mask over a medical procedure mask, or using a multi-layered cloth mask are among the suggested strategies.
As of Friday, North Carolina had recorded 814,594 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic started. DHHS reports that North Carolina providers have administered nearly 1.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines.