The list of states to identify the dangerous new coronavirus variant is growing.
Texas, Connecticut and Pennsylvania confirmed their first cases on Thursday, joining California, Colorado, Georgia, Florida and New York.
Florida has at least 22 confirmed cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. California has reported at least 26.
Experts have warned that the United States is woefully ill-equipped to track the rapidly transmissible variant. Without a robust, national system to identify genetic variations of the coronavirus, states are left on their own to identify the variant.
The Texas Department of Health and Human Services said an adult male resident of Harris County, which includes Houston, with no history of travel tested positive for the coronavirus. Genetic sequencing this week showed that the infection was caused by the variant.
“The fact that this person had no travel history suggests this variant is already circulating in Texas,” Dr. John Hellerstedt, the commissioner of state health services, said in a statement. “It’s not surprising that it showed up here given how rapidly it spreads.”
Dr. Hellerstedt urged Texans to “redouble our commitment” to social distancing and public health measures.
In Connecticut, Gov. Ned Lamont said two individuals between 15 and 25 years old had tested positive for the variant. Both had traveled outside of the state, he said, one to Ireland and the other to New York. Genetic sequencing showed the cases are unrelated.
Pennsylvania also reported that its case was because of international exposure.
Last month, Britain became the first country to identify the new variant, which is now surging there and burdening its hospitals with new cases. Now, the variant has been identified in at least 33 countries, including Britain. Dr. Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Europe, called the spread of the variant across the continent “an alarming situation.”
“Without increased control to slow its spread, there will be an increased impact on already stressed and pressurized health facilities,” Dr. Kluge said at a briefing on Thursday, warning that the variant may, over time, “replace other circulating lineages” as it has in Britain.
Dr. Kluge urged countries to continue to investigate transmission, increase genetic sequencing and to share data.
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