Massachusetts announced its first confirmed case of the new, more contagious COVID variant on Sunday, but some medical experts in the state say they aren't surprised.
Dr. Katherine Gergen Barnett with Boston Medical Center says it may not even be the first case.
“The fact that we just identified it yesterday in Massachusetts doesn’t mean that this is our first case," Gergen Barnett said. "I think that likely we have had this circulating in our population for a few weeks.”
Public health officials have said the woman infected with the new strain first identified in the U.K. is in her early 20s.
She’s a Boston resident who flew back from the U.K. on Jan. 3, with a two-hour layover at Logan Airport, before traveling on to another state where she has remained.
She tested negative for COVID before leaving the U.K., but became sick a day after she returned.
The news has some Massachusetts residents on edge, saying now is the time to be extra careful.
“Scary, I think it’s very scary, we have been very conservative, so following the rules to a T, and now it’s scary," Tricia Lucier of Upton said.
“I think that now more than ever we need to be really careful,” Sylvia Maher of Northbridge added.
Dr. Gergen Barnett agrees.
“I think it’s really important that people continue to stay incredibly vigilant, but not get too alarmed, not get too fearful," she said. "We know that viruses mutate, this is part of what viruses do to stay alive.”
Dr. Gergen Barnett says there is some positive news about this particular variant that seems to spread faster, but doesn’t seem more deadly.
“We have good data that the spike protein, which we have really modeled our vaccines on, is similar enough that the vaccine will likely be effective,” she said.
The CDC has said the new variant may become the dominant strain in the U.S. by March.