NJ confirms 2 new cases of UK COVID-19 mutation, officials say

Coronavirus
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A medical worker, wearing a mask for protection against the COVID-19 infection on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

NEW JERSEY — Two cases of the more contagious COVID-19 U.K. variant were confirmed in New Jersey, the state’s health commissioner said in a press briefing Friday.

One of the cases was discovered in an Ocean County man in his 60s, said Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli. He had no travel history or no clear exposure to anyone who was ill. He was not hospitalized and his symptoms have recovered.

The second patient was described as a young traveler staying in northern New Jersey. He was tested on Jan. 11 and is asymptomatic, she said.

Mutations to the virus that causes COVID-19 are rapidly popping up, with health officials saying the pandemic could get worse unless people do more to curb cases.

Each new infection gives the virus a chance to mutate. So far, vaccines seem to remain effective against the new variants, but the longer it takes to vaccinate people, the more likely it is that a version of the virus that can elude defenses could emerge.

In the United States, health officials say the new variant first identified in the United Kingdom may become dominant in the U.S. by March and cause more hospitalizations and deaths because it spreads more easily.

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