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U.K. Variant Detected in Virus Outbreak at Urbandale Nursing Home


URBANDALE, Iowa — At least part of a reported COVID-19 outbreak that infected staff and residents at Urbandale Health Care Center, a center spokeswoman confirmed Monday, can be traced to B.1.1.7, also known as the U.K. variant. Some of those who became sick had previously received the Pfizer vaccine, although the center reports that no one is still positive with the virus.

NOTE: A new study out Monday found that while the U.K. Variant is more contagious, it has not caused more serious symptoms or caused a higher rate of death.

Iowa Department of Public Health spokeswoman Sarah Ekstrand emailed WHO 13:

Last week, the CDC confirmed that the B.1.1.7. is the most common COVID-19 variant circulating in the United States. The State Hygienic Laboratory continues to do sequencing on samples from across the state and for certain situations in which strain information is useful such as individuals who have been fully vaccinated. It is likely that the B.1.1.7. variant is the most commonly circulating strain in our state. This is not unexpected given national trends but is important information for overall surveillance, however the actions that individuals should take remain the same.

Bethany Lee, an administrator at Urbandale Health Care Center, told WHO 13 when asked how many of the center’s confirmed virus cases involved the U.K. variant, “All we know is that a variant has been detected in the building.”

Lee also emailed, “There were a mixture of vaccinated and non-vaccinated residents that tested positive.”

The center’s website shows that 18 residents and 10 staff previously tested positive for COVID-19 but tests Monday showed that the center no longer had any positive cases.

The Iowa Department of Public Health’s website showed a different number of infections at the center. The site listed 16 positive cases.

The center does not require staff or residents to get vaccinated. Lee said that 44% of staff chose to get vaccinated and 81% of residents received the immunization.

Monday morning, Iowa lawmakers received a briefing from the Iowa Department of Public Health regarding the increased presence of the U.K. variant, as well as rising hospitalization rates.

“We’re not out of the woods,” state Senator Sarah Trone Garriott, a Democrat from Windsor Heights, said that she took from the meeting and hopes other elected officials will remind residents. “The pandemic is not over and this new strain increases the risk for everyone. And people really need to take precautions and stay safe.”

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has increased more than 20% over the past month, as the U.K. variant has spread. But the total remains about 13% of the peak in late November.

(Data provided by the Iowa Department of Public Health)

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