SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – COVID-19, like any other virus, has been mutating, creating new variants.
Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been noted in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of August 5, there are currently four notable variants in the U.S.:
- B.1.1.7 (Alpha): Commonly known as the U.K. variant, it was first detected in the U.S. in December.
- B.1.351 (Beta): First detected in the U.S. in January, this variant was initially found in South Africa.
- P.1 (Gamma): This variant, first detected in the U.S. in January, was found in travelers from Brazil entering Japan.
- B.1.617.2 (Delta): After first being detected in India in December, this variant was first recorded in the U.S. in March.
A COVID-19 sub-strain has also been detected – delta plus – which is similar to the delta variant. Here’s what we know about delta plus.
As of the end of July, the CDC reports the Delta variant is the most prevalent variant of COVID-19 in the U.S. Just two months ago, the U.K. variant held that position.
But what about Utah?
Since June, the Delta variant has been the dominant strain in Utah. Previously, the U.K. variant was the most prominent but since June, that has not been the case.
According to the Utah Department of Health, over 3,760 cases of the Delta variant have been confirmed in the Beehive State. That edges out the U.K. variant by about 60 cases.
During the week of July 18, UDOH reports 111 cases of the Delta variant were detected. That is down from the previous week when nearly 670 cases were detected.
Less than 240 cases of the P.1 Gamma variant have been reported in Utah.
Where are the variants in Utah?
Across Utah’s 29 counties, the most populous – Salt Lake and Utah – have seen the greatest number of variants.
Salt Lake County alone has seen over 3,500 COVID-19 variant cases while Utah County has detected 2,020.
The counties making up the Southwest Utah Health Department – Beaver, Iron, Washington, Kane, and Garfield – 725 variant cases have been reported.
Counties north of Tooele, Salt Lake, and Summit have recorded over 1,700 variant cases. Among those counties are two seeing cases surge.
Utah health officials say these variants are spreading statewide because of those who have not gotten the COVID-19 vaccine.
They say that as more cases of COVID-19 appear, more mutations of the virus will show up.
“It’s rolling the dice. The more variants that arise, the more deadly they become, and we could start seeing even more vaccine breakthroughs,” says Kelly Oakeson, the chief scientist of bioinformatics and next-generation sequencing.
So will new variants, or sub-strains like delta plus, become dominant strains? Oakeson says only time will tell.
To best limit the spread, he says to continue to follow public health guidance.
“Vaccination is still effective against the Delta and the Delta Plus variants. Wearing a mask is a good thing – especially indoors and in public settings,” Oakeson tells ABC4. “You know, hand washing, social distancing, all these things we keep preaching, they’re still working. Keep doing them.”
Researchers continue to monitor the strains of coronavirus, but as of now, Oakeson said Delta Plus transmission remains low in our communities, and he said there’s no need to panic.