First Cases of P.1 COVID-19 Variant Identified in VA

RICHMOND – The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) today announced that the first cases of the SARS-CoV-2 variant P.1 have been identified in two samples from Virginia residents. One case was identified in an adult resident of the Northwest Region who had a history of domestic travel during the exposure period and the second case was identified in an adult resident of the Eastern Region with no history of travel. Neither case had a record of COVID-19 vaccination prior to illness onset. The P.1 variant, which was first identified in travelers from Brazil in late 2020, is associated with increased person-to-person transmission of COVID-19. At this time, there is no evidence that infections with this variant cause more severe disease. To date, the P.1 variant has been identified in at least 22 other U.S. states.

In each case, the P.1 variant was initially identified by laboratories using next-generation sequencing to help expand Virginia’s genomic surveillance efforts for genetic changes to the virus that causes COVID-19. Of the 674 variants of concern reported to VDH to date, the majority have been identified as B.1.1.7 (78.5%), followed by B.1.351 (9.5%), B.1.427 (8.0%) and B.1.429 (3.7%). It is very likely that these variants are more common in our communities than the number of reported cases suggest. This is because not all COVID-19 positive samples are tested to see what variant type they are.

Viruses change all the time, and VDH expects to see new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus as disease spreads. As our public health officials closely monitor the emergence of these SARS-CoV-2 variants in our Commonwealth, it is critical that all Virginians comply now with mitigation measures.  Public health recommendations for stopping the spread of COVID-19 will work for all COVID-19 variants. This means wearing masks correctly, staying at least six feet from others, avoiding crowds, washing hands often, getting vaccinated for COVID-19 when it is your turn, and staying home if you are infected with COVID-19 or if you have had close contact with someone with COVID-19. Answer the call if contacted by VDH as part of our case investigation and contact tracing efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.

As of April 16, 2021, Virginia has administered 5,105,585 COVID-19 vaccine doses. More than 3.3 million Virginians, representing 38.7% of Virginia’s total population, have received at least one dose. Of those, 2 million Virginians, or 23.5% of the Commonwealth’s population, are fully vaccinated.

Another April 16 milestone shows more than 2 million Virginians have joined the fight against COVID-19 using their mobile devices. This includes 1,082,068 COVIDWISE users – the nation’s first app using the Google/Apple framework and one of the most downloaded exposure notifications apps in the United States. Approximately 951,000 additional iPhone users have also turned on COVIDWISE Express, an exposure notifications option specifically for iPhone users.

For more information about COVID-19 variants, visit VDH’s Variants of the Virus that Causes COVID-19 website and CDC’s About the Variants website.