The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is announcing that the B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19 has been identified in samples from three Rhode Island patients. The variant was identified in these samples yesterday evening. One patient was in their 60s, one patient was in their 50s, and one patient was in their 20s.
These samples underwent sequencing as part of RIDOH's COVID-19 genomic surveillance plan. These cases are still under investigation. The sequencing was performed by the Broad Institute, in collaboration with RIDOH's State Health Laboratories. This sequencing work is supported by funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The B.1.1.7 variant was originally identified in the United Kingdom. This variant of COVID-19 is considered more contagious than the strain that has been predominant in Rhode Island through the pandemic. All Rhode Islanders are urged to continue wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and washing their hands regularly.