U.K. COVID-19 variant found on University of Arizona campus


TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A University of Arizona lab study has confirmed the presence of the U.K. COVID variant on campus. It’s more infectious and could be more severe if someone is infected by it.

The research lab discovered traces of the variant through a saline water gargling sample study.

Michael Worobey, the researcher whose lab found the variant, said there are currently eight confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 variant on campus, but that may only be the tip of the iceberg.

“It was definitely sobering because this variant is more transmissible and it is associated with more hospitalizations and deaths,” Worobey said.

He explains that while finding the variant was worrying, it was not surprising. With the U.K. variant being more contagious, it was only a matter of time.

Worobey and the research lab found the cases of the variant through students who volunteered to be part of a campus study. So far, the study has had around 200 participants.

“I collect samples from people on campus at various locations and sequence the genome from the virus,” he said.

The University of Arizona says the presence of the variant means that everyone needs to remain vigilant in preventing the spread of the virus.

Worobey said, “We don’t want people to panic. The methods that we have for dealing with this virus, things like wearing a mask, avoiding close contact and of course vaccination. They all work against this variant.”

Zaniah burton, a university senior, said, “It is something that’s scary, coming to campus and knowing that it is here.”

Positive cases remain under one percent on campus and the university is still planning to transition to the next phase of reopening on Monday, going from a limit of 50 to 100 people for in-person classes.

The U of A says the presence of the B.1.1.7 variant emphasizes the need for everyone to get vaccinated as soon as they can.

“It’ll be a reminder for people to redouble their efforts that we’re not through this pandemic yet,” Worobey said.

Copyright 2021 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.