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5 more cases of COVID-19 variant detected at Colorado correctional facility

There are now eight cases of the B.1.351 variant, which was first found in South Africa, at Buena Vista Correctional Complex.

CHAFFEE COUNTY, Colo. — The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) announced that it had detected five additional cases of the COVID-19 variant first found in South Africa among the inmate population at the Buena Vista Correctional Complex (BVCC).

On the weekend of Mar. 6, BVCC in Chaffee County announced three positive cases of the COVID-19 variant B.1.351 which experts believe is more transmissible than other strains. 

CDPHE announced that additional testing had been required along with regular monitoring since the facility has an outbreak. 

To mitigate disease spread, CDPHE hosted a vaccine clinic for staff and inmates at the facility on Mar 8 and 9, vaccinating 758 people.

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According to CDPHE, over 85% of the inmate population at BVCC has now received the vaccine's first dose. CDPHE said it has also conducted a vaccination clinic for 34 family members and close contacts of staff.

Currently, the state lab is testing about 5% of positive COVID samples for variants. The process is more involved than a standard COVID-19 test, as it requires gene sequencing.

“There’s a significant upfront preparation that has to happen to ensure that we get coverage of the entire genome when we’re looking at it,” said Emily Travanty, laboratory director for CDPHE.

Under protocol right now, the state sequences a sampling of positive test samples from around the state. The state lab also sequences samples that include a genetic marker that seems to indicate another variant, B.1.1.7, which was first discovered in the U.K. The first case of B.1.1.7 in the United States was discovered in Colorado.

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