The COVID-19 variant previously discovered in the United Kingdom and is said to be more contagious has been detected for the first time in Denton County, health officials announced Wednesday.
The person infected with COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7 lives in an unincorporated area of Northeast Denton County and has no travel history, Denton County Public Health said in a news release. No further information will be provided about the patient due to patient confidentiality, the department said.
County health officials have launched an epidemiologic investigation and are in contact with Texas Department of State Health Services.
The announcement followed the opening of a mega vaccination site at Texas Motor Speedway where up to 10,000 people per day could be vaccinated against the virus. The mega site opens again Thursday -- appointments are mandatory.
"Even as Denton County ramps up the number of vaccinations this week, it is important to remember that everyone should continue to practice the CDC guidelines for social distancing, hand washing, and wearing masks," Denton County Judge Andy Eads said in the news release. "We know these practices work, even as different variants of the COVID-19 virus circulate around the globe. All individuals, with or without a vaccine, should continue following these basic steps to protect the health and safety of everyone."
The COVID-19 variant under investigation does not appear to cause different symptoms or symptoms that are more serious than existing variants, DCPH said, though research is ongoing and shows vaccine efficacy against the variant.
"The UK B.1.1.7 variant test result here in Denton County underscores what we already know: COVID-19 remains an ongoing pandemic and Denton County has continuing risk," said Dr. Matt Richardson, DCPH Director. "Masks and physical distancing are required as we quickly deploy vaccine every week."
If you would like to register to receive a COVID-19 vaccination in Denton County, click here for more information. You can also call 940-349-2585
Denton County is providing free COVID-19 testing through the county health department. For times and locations, visit DentonCounty.gov/COVID19testing.
To minimize the spread of COVID-19, DCPH asks all community members to continue to:
- Maintain at least six feet of physical distance in public settings and when around individuals outside of the household.
- Wear masks or face coverings, which should cover both the nose and mouth, in public settings and when around individuals outside of the household.
- Wash and/or sanitize hands frequently.
- Stay home if you are symptomatic, have recently had close contact with a person with COVID-19, or have pending COVID-19 lab results.
The vaccine is currently only being administered to those who are part of Phase 1A and 1B, as outlined by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Those in Phase 1A are front-line healthcare workers or residents of long-term care facilities. Phase 1B includes those who are over the age of 65, or those over the age of 16 with a chronic medical condition that puts them at risk for severe illness.
On March 3, vaccine availability was expanded to include school and child care workers.
Once vaccinated, people are expected to get some level of protection within a couple of weeks after the first shot, but full protection may not happen until a couple of weeks after the second shot. Even when fully vaccinated, it's still possible to become infected by the virus since the vaccine does not offer 100% protection.
The Texas DSHS advises that the vaccine will not be readily available for the general public until late spring or early summer 2021.