The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department confirmed its first case of the COVID-19 variant B.1.429, which is also known as the California variant.
The local case, a man in his 60s, was identified through special testing at the Nebraska Public Health Lab.
The state has identified 13 cases of the variant in four different health jurisdictions. The other 12 cases are nine in Douglas County, two in the Public Health Solutions district (Fillmore, Gage, Jefferson, Saline and Thayer counties), and one in the East Central district (Boone, Colfax, Nance and Platte counties).
“We know viruses constantly change, and a variant is a new form of virus. This development is not unexpected and it’s very likely we will see more cases related to variants identified in Lancaster County,” Health Director Pat Lopez said. “However, this finding also signals the need for caution, and it’s critical that we continue to take preventive actions that we know work to slow the spread of COVID-19, which include getting the COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available to you.”
Though less is known about this variant, researchers expect that current coronavirus vaccines will be effective against it. The variant is likely to be more contagious, and individuals who have the variant will still test positive for COVID-19.
The Nebraska Public Health Lab has the ability to examine the coronavirus's genome to track mutations in its genetic sequence and learn more about the variant's spread in Nebraska. The lab can examine more than 100 different specimens each week.
On Saturday, the Health Department announced 65 new COVID-19 cases in Lancaster County. The total number of cases is 28,151, and the number of deaths is 221.