TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—The Tompkins County Health Department has found two more cases of the UK variant of the COVID-19 virus (known officially as the B.1.1.7 variant) in people locally. Both people are in isolation and close contacts have been identified.

It is the fifth and sixth cases of the UK variant found in the county, all of which have been detected using sequencing technology from Cornell University. Both of the new cases were blamed on travel.

The UK variant has been found to be more contagious, though there still seems to be no evidence that it is more lethal than the original coronavirus that has infected thousands locally and claimed the lives of nearly 30 Tompkins County residents. The first case was reported in the county on Jan. 15, shortly after it was first found in New York State.

“We are confident that we successfully identified and isolated the cases in this situation,” said Public Health Director Frank Kruppa. “This is a more contagious mutation of the virus and we need to be vigilant. We are seeing more presence of this variant in the U.S. and that may continue. We all still have a part in stopping the spread, and must continue to diligently wear masks, avoid crowds, and keep distance from one another.”

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com