The Oregon Health Authority late Friday afternoon announced the detection of the first case of a mutation of the COVID-19 virus first identified in December in the United Kingdom.
That strain has shown up in other states, but Oregon had not identified its first case until today. The case is in Multnomah County with no known connection to the U.K.
"The detection of the first case of this variant strain is a concern," said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state epidemiologist. "As we learn more about this case and the individual who tested positive for this strain, OHA continues to promote effective public health measures, including wearing masks, maintaining 6 feet of physical distance, staying home, washing your hands, and avoiding gatherings and travel."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week that the U.K. strain, which it said has been found in 10 states, may be "more highly transmissible" and will require "increased compliance with mitigation strategies, including distancing and masking."
That news comes at the end of a week in which Gov. Kate Brown announced the state would begin vaccinating all Oregonians over the age of 65 immediately, only to retract that announcement and blame federal officials for overstating the volume of vaccines kept in a stockpile.
On Friday, OHA also announced 1,037 new COVID-19 cases and 21 new deaths.
The Multnomah County health officer, Dr. Jennifer Vines, said her team would be working to try to learn more about the first Oregon case of the U.K. strain, and in the meantime, she urged residents to continue exercising self-discipline.
"Confirming this strain locally is distressing," Vines said. "Until we have enough vaccine, we must continue using face masks, distancing, and limiting our social interactions."