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New Coronavirus Variants Likely Already Present In Oklahoma

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Although it hasn't been confirmed, state health officials are fairly sure the new coronavirus variants have made it to Oklahoma. Although the new strains are more contagious, medical experts are hopeful about treatment and vaccines.

Researchers have confirmed the presence of the new highly contagious coronavirus strains in nearly half of the United States. That includes states that border Oklahoma like Texas, New Mexico and Colorado.

Oklahoma officials said the strains—such as the variant from the United Kingdom—are likely already here, but the state’s laboratories don’t yet have the resources they need to widely test for it. Oklahoma is in the process of opening a new public health lab, which officials said should help in the effort to better test for new strains.

Studies suggest the new variant increases virus transmissibility by about 50% and could cause people to become reinfected with the virus.

But State Epidemiologist Jared Taylor said the symptoms of the new variants seem to be very similar, which should be a good thing.

"There's obviously a positive to that, right. The successes that we found in terms of treatment and management are going to continue to be successful. We have reason to believe the vaccine is going to continue to be successful," said Taylor.

Scientists say the United States has about two months to curb the spread of the new variant by enacting stricter public health measures and ramping up testing and vaccine distribution. Otherwise, there might be another wave of the virus in March.


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Catherine Sweeney reports for StateImpact Oklahoma, focusing on health.
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