New coronavirus variant eyed as possible culprit behind outbreak at Washington state hospital


A new variant of the novel coronavirus that’s thought to be more transmissible is now being eyed as the possible culprit behind a coronavirus outbreak at a hospital in Vancouver, Wash., that has sickened dozens. 

A coronavirus outbreak at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in December began with one patient who initially tested negative upon admission before testing positive days later, The Oregonian reported.

Since then, at least 30 coronavirus cases have been reported among patients and staff at the hospital. 

As of Monday, 56 health care workers remained quarantined because of 11 confirmed cases among staffers.

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Dr. Lawrence Neville, chief medical officer for PeaceHealth Columbia Network, said on Monday that officials aren’t ruling out the new coronavirus variant — B.1.1.7 — being behind the outbreak. 

The variant was recently discovered in the United Kingdom and is said to be more transmissible than COVID-19 — but as of now, it’s not thought to be more virulent or resistant to vaccines and treatment.

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Neville, according to The Oregonian, said that PeaceHealth has sent samples to determine if the outbreak was indeed caused by the new variant, noting that it “is not impossible.” 

It will take 10 to 14 days to receive the results, which could determine if Washington is yet another state to discover the new variant, which has already been found in Colorado, Florida, California, and, as of Monday, New York. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 



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