EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) -- According to state data, El Paso County leads the way on where most positive COVID-19 variant cases are found in the state of Colorado. Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been documented in the United States and globally during this pandemic, and two of them are most prevalent in El Paso County.
"The B117, or the UK variant, is the one we're seeing more of, as far as absolute numbers go," says Dr. Robin Johnson of the El Paso County Health Department.
"The other one we are seeing is the California variant. We haven't seen the other ones of concern in El Paso County, though they are in the state in the smaller numbers," she explains.
According to the CDC, Dr. Johnson says, with a virus never seen before, learning about it and it's variants has watch-and-go sort of approach.
"Part of the issue is that, when we see these variants emerge, they do spread easier," Dr. Johnson says.
Dr. Johnson points out that although El Paso County has the highest absolute number of positive cases in the Centennial State, there's no solid way of knowing just how many positive variant cases there have been and currently are in the area. However, testing for variants has become easier thanks to genomic testing, which takes anywhere between seven and ten days to complete.
"When it goes through the lab, they can look for what's called an S-Dropout. It's that spike protein that helps identify the virus," Dr. Johnson said.
Scientists are continuing to learn about how easily these variants spread, whether they could cause more severe illness, and whether vaccines will protect people against them. In the meantime, Dr. Johnson urges the public to get the shot.
"When we see variants, the vaccine itself is still effective," she explains. "While we know we are making great progress, we are in a race with the virus to really mitigate that spread."