Everyone knew it would show up in the state eventually – and now it has. 

On Saturday, Jan. 23, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) reported the state’s first identified case of the new faster-spreading COVID-19 variant.  A North Carolina resident was found to be infected with “B.1.1.7” – a new strain of the coronavirus that was first detected last month in England.

An adult from Mecklenburg County tested positive for B.1.1.7.  That’s all that’s public right now because the state doesn’t provide any identifying information in its disease reports in order to preserve people’s privacy.

That strain is new to North Carolina, but it has been showing up across the world and across the country.  There had been 195 cases of B.1.1.7 in 21 states as of Friday, Jan. 22.  This variant is thought to be much more contagious than other forms of COVID-19.

The good news is that the current vaccines are expected to be effective against this new strain of the virus.  The bad news is that, in the past few days, Guilford County’s allotment of vaccine doses has been greatly curtailed by the state, and now thousands of people who had vaccinations scheduled are uncertain when they’ll be able to get the shots.

 Many epidemiologists have pointed out that having this new, faster spreading, variation around makes it even more important to get much of the population vaccinated very quickly.

Doing so will also help prevent future COVID-19 variants from popping up.

While B.1.1.7 may be new to North Carolina, state health officials are giving the same old advice they have for months.

“It is more important than ever to practice the 3Ws,” said NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen, meaning watch your distance, wear a mask and wash your hands frequently.

Cohen added, “While expected, identification of this COVID-19 variant in North Carolina is concerning, especially at the same time as we are already seeing very high numbers of cases.”

State health officials also – as they have been doing for nearly a year now– are advising people to stay home except for essential activities.