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As screening for coronavirus variants increases in Alabama, so does the number of cases

There is at least one coronavirus variant case in Madison County.

Posted: Feb 22, 2021 9:17 PM
Updated: Feb 22, 2021 10:27 PM

Alabama now has 22 confirmed cases of the coronavirus variant first identified in the United Kingdom.

At least one of those cases is in Madison County. Just last month, the CDC chose to ramp up its screening for variants throughout the U.S. and here in Alabama.

Right now, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) is working with the CDC and private labs to screen for variants. While it is confirmed at least one case is in Madison County, Dr. Karen Landers with ADPH said the CDC is not releasing specific data for each county, meaning there could be more.

"I think the most important message right now is that we are actively engaged in surveillance and that we are not just doing surveillance with just one singular laboratory doing sequencing," Landers said.

In Alabama, 1,778 positive COVID-19 cases have been sequenced for COVID variants. That is about 0.34% of cases in our state.

Out of those cases screened, the CDC has confirmed 22 cases of the variant first identified in the U.K. But there are two ways the state is screening for mutations.

One is through sequencing, which means a certain number of positive COVID tests are sent to the CDC or labs.

"The other is that if there are specimens that if when they are being tested by PCR show a slightly different pattern around the spike protein that might indicate a variant," Landers said. "There are some platforms, some laboratory, a slightly different pattern that could potentially indicate a mutant."

However, the U.S. only recently started ramping up screening.

"Definitely the United States, in general, we are running behind in the screening process for mutations," Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Ali Hassoun said. "Unfortunately, that applied to a lot of different things as well."

Hassoun said the CDC was screening less than 1% of cases. According to the CDC, it began regularly receiving COVID-19 samples from state health departments and other health agencies in November.

Then, on Jan. 25, it scaled up the process to receive 750 samples a week.

"So, their aim now as they try to get more funding, to go up to 10% of the virus to be screened," Hassoun said.

He points out the U.K. has consistently been screening 10% of positive cases throughout the pandemic. South Africa is now screening at least 5%.

He said it is important the U.S. continues to ramp up this process.

"It's very important to detect these changes very early to take precautions if you can or prepare for this," Hassoun said.

By knowing more about mutations in the virus, Hassoun said they can determine what changes, if any, should be made when it comes to treatments or vaccines.

If you have the variant, you will be notified by the health department and they will start a case investigation.

Dr. Landers added there are companies working on COVID-19 tests to detect variants. This would differ from the PCR and rapid tests currently available.

So far, no companies have filed for emergency use authorization.

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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 493252

Reported Deaths: 9929
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson709861374
Mobile36108725
Madison32405455
Tuscaloosa24110410
Montgomery22565500
Shelby21929215
Baldwin19732283
Lee14961153
Morgan13659251
Calhoun13275286
Etowah13176319
Marshall11261209
Houston10086261
Elmore9376185
Limestone9359134
Cullman8891181
St. Clair8822223
Lauderdale8603211
DeKalb8446175
Talladega7517163
Walker6518255
Jackson6492102
Autauga626491
Blount6097127
Colbert6001118
Coffee5245102
Dale4640107
Russell404730
Franklin399177
Covington3957106
Chilton3870100
Escambia377472
Tallapoosa3585142
Clarke343650
Chambers3410110
Dallas3403141
Pike293372
Lawrence282984
Marion281895
Winston246767
Bibb245060
Geneva239670
Marengo235855
Pickens224654
Barbour211551
Hale209768
Fayette200256
Butler196166
Henry182441
Cherokee177038
Monroe166139
Randolph163640
Washington156535
Clay144354
Crenshaw144354
Macon142043
Cleburne137739
Lamar132833
Lowndes131051
Wilcox121825
Bullock116936
Conecuh106724
Perry105527
Sumter98331
Coosa88823
Greene87632
Choctaw55023
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 775004

Reported Deaths: 11411
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby872191491
Davidson81420861
Knox45877581
Hamilton40298459
Rutherford38301383
Williamson25238203
Sumner21329315
Montgomery17380212
Out of TN1693194
Wilson16371210
Unassigned15639125
Sullivan14318273
Blount14036181
Bradley12867139
Washington12759234
Maury12203163
Sevier12011163
Putnam10592169
Madison10092229
Robertson8941120
Hamblen8013162
Anderson7971156
Greene7283145
Tipton6945103
Coffee6311114
Dickson6205106
Gibson6187140
Cumberland6102121
Carter5962152
McMinn591791
Roane588896
Bedford5789119
Loudon567965
Jefferson5642118
Lawrence556383
Monroe532290
Warren530975
Hawkins523894
Dyer5234101
Franklin472585
Fayette466171
Obion436694
Rhea414473
Lincoln413362
Cocke397593
Marshall390756
Cheatham390543
Campbell380059
Weakley378659
Giles373296
Henderson361973
Carroll347981
Hardeman338164
White337166
Macon336373
Hardin331163
Lauderdale309742
Henry300675
Marion293644
Wayne287130
Scott286843
Overton284857
Claiborne278967
McNairy267253
Hickman264941
Haywood264860
DeKalb264349
Smith255636
Grainger242446
Trousdale238922
Morgan229637
Fentress229144
Johnson216338
Chester201548
Bledsoe200110
Crockett197147
Unicoi180347
Polk175522
Cannon174529
Union171933
Grundy168330
Lake167826
Sequatchie155327
Decatur153737
Humphreys153221
Benton150739
Lewis146825
Meigs125921
Jackson125034
Stewart123324
Clay106930
Perry103227
Houston102732
Moore94416
Van Buren79520
Pickett74623
Hancock49612

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