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Wisconsin has identified its first case of a coronavirus mutation that spreads more rapidly and easily than the version that has already infected more than half a million state residents and killed more than 5,200, the state Department of Health Services announced Wednesday.
A patient in Eau Claire County tested positive for the variant, called B117, which was first discovered circulating in England in November and December — and has since spread elsewhere, including to the United States. Minnesota announced a cluster of cases on Saturday.
The variant is not thought to cause more severe COVID-19 symptoms, but public health officials worry B117 could fuel bigger outbreaks, increasing the volume of sickness and number of deaths.
“We already know that COVID-19 is easily transmitted through respiratory droplets, and with this new variant appearing to be even more infectious, taking preventative measures like wearing a mask and physically distancing are even more important,” DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm said in a statement.
David Wahlberg has the full story for the Wisconsin State Journal.
Worrisome new variant of COVID-19 coronavirus found in Wisconsin — Wisconsin State Journal
As coronavirus mutates, the world stumbles again to respond — The New York Times
Biden team sees risks in Trump decision to widen vaccine pool — The Washington Post
Winnebago County restaurants face food permit suspensions over COVID-19 — Beloit Daily News
U.P. county is refusing to enforce COVID-19 restrictions from Whitmer — Detroit Free Press
Data to note
WisContext offers these visualizations of Wisconsin COVID-19 infections, deaths and hospitalizations.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services on Wednesday reported a seven-day average of 30 new daily COVID-19 deaths.
Public health officials continue to urge Wisconsinites to wear masks and practice physical distancing until vaccinations are more widely distributed.
Calculate your exposure risk
In Wisconsin, even small gatherings can carry a big risk of exposure to the coronavirus, according to a nationwide tool that estimates the danger by the size of gathering and county in which it is held. Data scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Stanford University developed the tool, which you can find here.
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