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RALEIGH — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported the first identification of the COVID-19 variant B.1.351 in a North Carolina resident Feb. 11. The B.1.351 variant was first detected in South Africa in October and in the United States in January.

The B.1.351 variant is different than the variant from the United Kingdom — known as theB.1.1.7 variant — reported on Jan. 23.

The North Carolina B.1.351 variant case was identified in a sample from an adult in the central part of the state who had not recently traveled. To protect the privacy of the individual, NCDHHS said no further information will be released. The specimen was tested by LabCorp and selected for sequencing as part of a partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

North Carolina is the fourth state to report an identified case of B.1.351. As of Feb. 9, nine cases of infection with the variant had been identified in residents of South Carolina, Maryland and Virginia.

Viruses change all the time, and NCDHHS expects to see new COVID-19 variants in the state as the pandemic continues. Data suggest this variant may be more contagious than other variants but does not suggest that it causes more severe disease. Current COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be effective against this and other new variants.

“While we anticipated the arrival of the B.1.351 variant in NC, it’s a reminder that the fight against COVID-19 is not over. The emergence of variants that are more infectious means it’s more important than ever to do what we know works to slow the spread — wear a mask, wash your hands, wait 6 feet apart, and get vaccinated when it’s your turn,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen.

NCDHHS has additional recommendations to improve mask wearing based on guidance from the CDC. To ensure masks are as protective as possible, NCDHHS recommends that you:

  • Make sure your mask fits snugly against your face and covers your nose and mouth. To help with a snug fit, you can use a mask with a metal strip along the top of the mask.
  • Use two or more layers for your face covering. You can do this by wearing a cloth face covering with two or more layers or by wearing one disposable mask (sometimes referred to as a surgical mask or a medical procedure mask) underneath a cloth mask.
  • Do not wear two disposable masks.
  • Make sure you can see and breathe easily.

For additional information on how to improve mask wearing, please see updated guidelines from the CDC.

As of Feb. 10, North Carolina has administered more than 1.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine. North Carolina’s goal is to vaccinate as many people as quickly and equitably as possible.

Vaccine supply is limited; therefore, all states must vaccinate people in groups. North Carolina is currently vaccinating all people in Groups 1 and 2, which include health care workers, long-term care staff and residents, and people 65 and older. Vaccine eligibility for people in Group 3 will begin Feb. 24 for teachers and child care workers and March 10 for additional front-line essential workers.

Group 4 will include adults at high risk for exposure and increased risk of severe illness, and Group 5 will include everyone. Detailed information about each vaccine group is online at YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov (English) or vacunate.nc.gov (Spanish).

North Carolina’s Modified Stay at Home Order is in effect until at least Feb. 28. This order requires people to stay at home between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Businesses including restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, personal care businesses, most retail stores and more are required to close by 10 p.m. In addition, all onsite alcohol consumption sales must end by 9 p.m.

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