Iowa Department of Public Health reports 38 new cases of U.K. variant

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported 38 additional cases of the B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19 on Wednesday.

Rylee Wilson, News Editor

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported 38 additional cases of the B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19, commonly referred to as the U.K. variant, in the state on Wednesday. 

In a news release, the department said the increase is partly due to an increased number of tests being sequenced for the variant at the State Hygienic Lab. 

This increase further supports that we know this variant is circulating here in the state of Iowa, in addition to being found across the United States,” the department said in the release. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been 4,686 reported cases of the variant in the U.S as of March 16. 

Sarah Ekstrand, Public Information Officer for the Iowa Department of Public Health, said in an email to The Daily Iowan the sequencing process for the virus takes around one week – tests included in the 38 cases reported today would have been conducted between two and three weeks ago. 

Ekstrand said the variant has been detected in 19 Iowa counties: Allamakee, Black Hawk, Bremer, Cherokee, Crawford, Dallas, Davis, Dickinson, Dubuque, Guthrie, Howard, Johnson, Plymouth, Polk, Pottawattamie, Scott, Washington, Winneshiek, and Woodbury. 

The variant is associated with a higher risk of transmission, and possibly a higher risk of death, though this risk has not been confirmed, according to the CDC. 

The Iowa Department of Public Health first identified the variant in Iowa on Feb. 1. 

State Medical Director and Epidemiologist Caitlin Pedati said in the release that Iowans should get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it is available to them. 

“As viruses are known to change a bit over time and variants can sometimes be more easily transmissible, reaching herd immunity will be very important in reducing virus activity,” Pedati said. “Public health will continue to work with our partners at SHL to monitor these trends and it is very important that we all keep practicing good public health protective measures.” 

On Wednesday, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced that based on current vaccine allocations, all Iowans will be eligible for a vaccine starting April 5.