The B117 COVID variant has been confirmed in the Panhandle. Confirmation was received late last week of a teen male, teen female, and female in her 30s from the Nebraska Public Health Lab testing and notification from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. Any close contacts identified will be quarantined to slow the spread.
This variant was initially detected in the UK and in the U.S. this past December. This variant seems to spread more easily and quickly than other variants which may lead to more COVID cases with the potential for increased severity. Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time.
So far, studies suggest that antibodies generated through vaccination with currently authorized vaccines recognize these variants. This is being closely investigated and more studies are underway.
“Finding this strain in the Panhandle reinforces the importance of getting your COVID vaccine. Consider it your molecular PPE and one of the best protection against this insidious virus. Now that it’s available to anyone over 18, we urge you to get it,” said Kim Engel, Panhandle Public Health District Director.
Anyone in the Panhandle age 18 and older can get a COVID vaccine. More than 35% of Panhandle adults have received the COVID vaccine. People are urged to help friends, family, and neighbors sign up for theirs. This can be done by going to vaccinate.ne.gov or calling 833-998-2275.
Those who have received their first dose and have not heard when they will receive your second dose will be contacted by the vaccine provider that administered the first dose. Those who have lost their COVID vaccine cards can go to tinyurl.com/2zh7uhhu.
On Monday afternoon, Chadron Public Schools remained at 0 active cases in the district, and nobody quarantined. There have been only 39 cumulative confirmed cases in the district since Aug. 14. Chadron State College had two active cases as of Monday, both in students. There have been 247 total positive cases in the college, 207 in students and the rest in employees.
The COVID-19 Risk Dial provided by PPHD continued to move downward, dropping below the halfway mark on the Yellow, or “Moderate” level. Dawes County has had 740 confirmed cases as of Monday, four in the past 14 days, and 18 deaths. Sioux County has had 31 cases, none in the last 14 days, and one death. Sheridan has had 506 confirmed cases, six in the past two weeks, and 20 deaths. Box Butte’s totals are 920 confirmed, one in the past two weeks, and nine deaths.
Over 23,000 people in the Panhandle have been vaccinated. Current COVID testing access can be found at www.pphd.org.