U.K. COVID-19 variant suspected to be in Chattanooga area

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) – The Tennessee Department of Health has confirmed that there are at least two cases of the B-1-1-7 variant in the state, but they wouldn’t confirm the name of the county or counties where the variant was detected.

However, research from Baylor School scientists shows that the new, seemingly more contagious variant, was found in two different patient samples back in December.

Dr. Jay Sizemore with Erlanger Health Systems says that the variant has the potential to cause another surge in cases.

“If this variant were to take hold, certainly we could potentially expect kind of a secondary surge post holidays. Especially if we as a community fall in to the trap of seeing dropping numbers as a sign we can go out and resume normal activities,” says Sizemore.

Sizemore says that although there is some good news about the vaccine’s effectiveness against the variant, he says it isn’t time to let up yet.

“We’ll found out more information about whether or not it makes people sicker. The vaccines that are available appear to work against it. So really for me the message is: let’s be resilient,” he says.

Pulmonary specialist Mike Czarnecki says that it’s common for viruses like COVID-19 to mutate over time, causing more variants to occur. Although this B117 variant doesn’t appear to be more deadly than the current variant, not enough information is known to know if it’s more transmissible.

“What we don’t know is whether you’ll still be able to spread the virus even though you’re protected against the disease, getting very sick. And if you are able to spread it – how active, or how virulent will that spread be,” says Czarnecki.

He also expressed careful optimism about when life will start to get back to normal.

“I think you’ll have a sense of normalcy sometime towards the end of this year, and dare I say we’ll be back to normal January 2022,” Czarnecki predicts.

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