A Cape Cod surge of the P.1 COVID-19 variant has led to Massachusetts topping all U.S. states with 58 known cases of the antibody-resistant strain first detected in Brazil, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Cape Cod Times reported that genetic sequencing of Barnstable County positive tests identified 50 cases of the variant. The CDC reports that Massachusetts also shows 712 cases of the highly-contagious B.1.1.7. variant first detected in the United Kingdom, which CDC officials say is on its way to becoming the dominant strain in many parts of the U.S.
By comparison, Florida, which has a population more than triple that of Massachusetts, reports 55 cases of P.1. California reports 33, according to the latest CDC data.
“CDC is closely monitoring these variants of concern (VOC),” the agency said Thursday. “These variants have mutations in the virus genome that alter the characteristics and cause the virus to act differently in ways that are significant to public health,” including more severe cases, easier transmission, the requirement of different treatment and potential changes to the effectiveness of current vaccines.
The state has designated seven of Barnstable County’s 15 towns “high risk” for transmission of COVID-19, according to The Boston Globe and The Cape Cod Times. The county’s seven-day average positive test rate was recently 9.6%, more than triple the state rate.
Massachusetts’s first P.1 case was a Barnstable County woman in her 30s, according to the state Department of Public Health. DPH noted last week that the B.1.1.7 and P.1 variants of concern “are known to spread more easily than other variants of the COVID-19 virus.”
Stephen M. Kissler, of Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told The Cape Cod Times that B.1.1.7. is of concern because of its high degree of transmissibility, whereas P.1 was more resistant to antibodies.
Bruce Murphy, Yarmouth’s health director, told The Cape Cod Times that “coronavirus fatigue” was partly to blame for the recent surge. Contact tracers have found that many are “letting their guard down” by carpooling and hosting parties, he said.