A Rock Island resident is the first in Illinois identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to have contracted a variant of COVID-19 first identified in South Africa, public health officials said Thursday.
Cases of the variant were first reported in the U.S. at the end of January. Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike says the variant, like others identified, spreads the coronavirus more rapidly, which can lead to more COVID-19 cases.
“We expected to see more cases of variants detected in Illinois, including the B.1.351 strain,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “Our best path to defeating this virus as quickly as possible remains wearing our masks and getting vaccinated when it’s our turn.”
Illinois has administered more than 1.5 million vaccinations, with those receiving the required two shots totaling 346,773, according to public health officials.
Public health officials say studies indicate vaccines developed to combat COVID-19 may offer some protection against the variants, including the one first identified in the United Kingdom. Illinois is reporting 22 cases of the UK variant.
The Public Health Department on Thursday reported 2,838 new confirmed and probable cases and 102 new deaths in Illinois. The number of COVID-19 cases now surpasses 1.1 million, with 19,841 deaths.