First Case of COVID-19 Variant Confirmed in Massachusetts

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced that the first case of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7 has been detected in Massachusetts. This is the same variant initially discovered in the U.K. The individual developed symptoms in early January and tested positive for COVID-19. A genetic sample was sent to an out-of-state laboratory as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) established surveillance process to identify COVID-19 variants, and the state Public Health Laboratory was notified of the result.

The individual is a Boston resident, a female in her 20s. She had traveled to the U.K. and became ill the day after she returned. She had tested negative prior to leaving the U.K. The individual was interviewed by contact tracers at the time the initial positive result was received, and close contacts were identified. She is being re-interviewed by public-health officials now that the variant has been identified as the cause of illness.

Surveillance testing for the B.1.1.7 variant has been ongoing at the Massachusetts Public Health Laboratory in collaboration with clinical diagnostic laboratories and academic partners. Surveillance consists of genomic sequencing on portions of COVID-19-positive specimens.

To date, the CDC has reported 88 cases from 14 states in the U.S. Given the increased transmissibility of this variant and the number of states and other countries that have found infected cases, this variant was expected to arrive in Massachusetts eventually. Public-health risk-reduction measures remain the same. Individuals should continue to wear masks or face coverings while out in public, maintain six-foot social distancing, stay home when sick, and get tested if they have symptoms or are identified as a close contact.