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New COVID-19 strain found in Tennessee, health leaders believe it will become the dominant strain by March

Two cases of the B117 variant strain of the COVID-19 virus has been identified in Tennessee and confirmed by the CDC.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Two cases of the B117 variant strain of the COVID-19 virus, which has been observed to be more contagious than the original strain, has been identified in Tennessee and confirmed by the CDC, the Tennessee Department of Health confirmed on Thursday.

“To date, two cases of the B117 variant strain of SARS-CoV-2 have been identified in Tennessee and confirmed by the CDC, placing Tennessee among more than 20 U.S. states reporting COVID-19 cases caused by variants,” the Department of Health said in a statement. 

TDH Director Dr. Lisa Piercey said Friday, while they believe the strain will become more dominant due to it being more contagious, they do not believe it is "that big of a deal" -- saying this mutation was inevitable. Piercey believes this strain will become the dominant strain across the state, possibly as early as March, due to it being more easily transmitted.

“Viruses constantly change and new variants are expected to occur over time. This does not change our response to COVID-19 in Tennessee, but serves as a reminder of the need for continued vigilance and practice of simple actions we can all take to prevent further spread of COVID-19: wash hands frequently, limit gatherings, maintain social distance, wear a mask in public and get vaccinated when you qualify to do so.”

While the mutant strain is reportedly easier to spread, disease experts said it has not been observed to be any more or less dangerous when it infects someone. Experts also said current COVID-19 vaccines being administered appear to be effective with stopping this new strain.  

In an earlier report, the Tennessee Department of Health reported five cases had been reported in the state.

Within the first week of 2021, at least 56 cases of the coronavirus variant had been identified in the United States.

This story was originally reported by WSMV in Nashville.