South African COVID-19 variant discovered in Colorado prison

The more-contagious COVID-19 variant first identified in South Africa has been detected in a Colorado prison that is experiencing an active coronavirus outbreak, state health officials announced Sunday night.

The confirmation of three cases — among two prison staffers and one inmate — at the Buena Vista Correctional Complex in Chaffee County mark the first detection of the B.1.351 variant in the state, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said in a news release.

Prior to the discovery in Colorado, 81 cases of the South African variant had been confirmed in 20 jurisdictions across the U.S., including California, Texas, Florida, Illinois, New York and Maine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The South African variant first was detected in that country in October, and like the B.1.1.7. strain first identified in the United Kingdom, it’s believed to spread more easily and quickly than other versions of COVID-19, according to the CDC.

The discovery in Colorado came after the three samples from the Buena Vista prison were chosen at random for genetic sequencing as part of the state’s ongoing surveillance analysis for variants.

The state health department now plans to sequence all positive COVID-19 specimens from the prison to look for variants, the agency said in a news release. Anyone exposed at the prison will be quarantined for 14 days, health officials said.

South African COVID-19 variant discovered in Colorado prison