Virus Outbreak

Two concerning coronavirus variants have been confirmed in eastern Idaho, public health officials announced last week.

Both the U.K. variant and the California variant were discovered through genetic sequencing, according to a news release from Eastern Idaho Public Health. EIPH spokeswoman Mimi Taylor said the variants are in Bonneville County. The U.K. variant is believed to be more deadly than the basic strain of COVID-19; both variants identified in eastern Idaho are believed to be more infectious.

As hospital strains worsen, the health district issued another plea for people to wear masks, social distance and wash their hands.

“With the emergence of these variants in eastern Idaho, it is imperative, now more than ever, to follow public health recommendations to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19,” a news release said.

Idaho Falls remains the metro area with the highest rate of new COVID-19 cases in all of the U.S., according to tracking by the New York Times. Rexburg has the seventh-highest rate of new cases.

Viruses mutate as they spread. Not all mutations are inherently concerning. But some may make the virus more contagious, deadlier or even resistant to things thought to provide some level of immunity, including both past infections and full vaccinations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention monitors a handful of variants it deems concerning, which include two found in California, one found in South Africa, one found in Brazil and one found in the United Kingdom. In January, the CDC warned that the U.K. variant — now believed to be both more infectious and more deadly — would become the dominant strain in the U.S. by March.