The Louisiana Department of Health confirms the state’s second and third cases of the UK variant of COVID-19. Governor John Bel Edwards addressed the issue at his briefing Thursday that the new cases were found in Region 5, in Southwest Louisiana, and Region 1, the greater New Orleans area. Edwards said the new variants are 50%  more contagious.

“But the bottom line is this variant is present in the United States, it is present in Louisiana and we know that it transmits more easily,” said Edwards.

There are also 14 other cases pending confirmation, eight are suspected cases are in Region 1, and six are in Region 5. The state’s first confirmed case was detected in Region 1 the greater New Orleans area two weeks ago.

With a new variant of the virus entering the state, Edwards calls on residents to be even more diligent about mitigation measures of masking and social distancing.

“We know that they’re more contagious, we don’t yet know whether they’re more virulent, meaning that if you get the disease, you’re more likely to have a serious case that requires hospitalization or you’re more likely to die,” said Edwards.

The arrival of the UK variant in the state has health officials concerned because it spreads faster, and Edwards said we are in a difficult situation already due to the high level of cases the state is experiencing.

The CDC has also confirmed variants of the virus from Brazil and South Africa in the United States. Edwards said so far, they have not been reported in Louisiana.

“But we know the way this disease progresses that it’s very likely that they will move across the country at some point,” said Edwards.

Edwards said makers of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have stated the vaccine should be effective for the UK variant of the virus. On Thursday, the state reported 2,517 new cases, 55 new fatalities, and 1,590 patients are currently hospitalized with the virus.

(Story written by Brooke Thorington/Louisiana Radio Network)

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