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New Wis. COVID-19 variant dashboard provides regional data for strains of concern

Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 4:44 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 8, 2021 at 6:20 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - As COVID-19 variant cases continue to spread around Wisconsin, the state’s COVID-19 dashboard has added new information to detail where these strains are detected.

The Department of Health Services updated their COVID-19 dashboard Thursday, showing COVID-19 variant proportions by its Health Care Emergency Readiness Coalition (HERC) region.

DHS also added in data on two variant strains that were upgraded from variants of interest to variants of concern on March 17, strains B.1.427 and B.1.429. Both of these strain were originally discovered in California, and were first identified in Wisconsin in December of 2020.

“Because these new variants of concern spread more easily than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2, it is important to get vaccinated when you are able,” DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said. " Vaccines, along with our other public health practices, give the virus less of an opportunity to spread and mutate.”

The agency hopes the improvements to its COVID-19 dashboard will provide a better perspective on how common each variant of concern is regionally. The updates include the proportion of the sequenced specimen that are attributed to each variant strain, as well as information on the variants.

For example, in the South Central region of the state, it appears that 1% of COVID-19 cases are that of the B.1.1.7 variant, also known as the UK variant. Variants B.1.427/B.1.429, a new variant of concern, makes up 1.8% of all the COVID-19 cases identified in Wisconsin that were sequenced by state labs. Other lineages of COVID-19 take up the remaining 97.2%, which includes the most common strain of the virus.

Zero percent of the variants originally found circulating in South Africa or travelers from Brazil were indicated in the South Central region of the state.

Researchers say the newest variants of concern, B.1.427 and B.1.429, both spread more rapidly and easily than the original strain of COVID-19. However, they are shown to be less transmissible than strains B.1.1.7 and B.1.351, which were both originally discovered to be circulating in the UK and South Africa.

DHS reports there have been 216 cases of variants B.1.427 and B.1.429 since December of 2020.

Studies have shown that the current vaccines available will provide protection against COVID-19 variants, DHS adds, but this is still being investigated. Health officials urge the public to continue wearing masks in public, social distancing and staying home when you are sick.

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