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Wyoming reports first coronavirus variant from South Africa

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) – County health officials in Wyoming have detected the coronavirus variant that originated in South Africa.

The Teton County Health Department said on Monday that a sample from a resident who tested positive for COVID-19 in January revealed the variant, the Casper Star-Tribune reported. Health officials said the person, who is yet unidentified, did not travel prior to becoming infected.

The state Department of Health has not announced any other cases of the variant.

County Health Officer Dr. Travis Riddell has encouraged residents to get tested for the coronavirus if they have symptoms or come in contact with someone who tested positive.

“Testing is still our best mechanism to identify people who test positive for COVID-19 and to quickly work to determine their close contracts so that we can reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” Riddell said.

Health officials have advised that residents should continue to follow safety guidelines such as mask-wearing and social distancing.

Also Monday, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon announced the state would join a handful of others that have lifted mask-wearing mandates aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus. The changes to the public health order will take effect on March 16.

The variant first discovered in the U.K. was first reported in Wyoming in January. That variant is expected to take over as the dominant variant in the United States this month, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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Stu Whitney / South Dakota News Watch

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