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: 499819

Reported Deaths: 10148
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson720331403
Mobile36423741
Madison32708469
Tuscaloosa24457422
Montgomery22805523
Shelby22276219
Baldwin19935289
Lee15083161
Calhoun13963296
Morgan13801255
Etowah13419327
Marshall11460215
Houston10130264
Elmore9515190
Limestone9440139
St. Clair9057228
Cullman9000183
Lauderdale8630214
DeKalb8509175
Talladega7647165
Walker6601260
Jackson6552104
Autauga634792
Blount6256128
Colbert6010121
Coffee5261104
Dale4685107
Russell408134
Franklin400879
Covington3999107
Chilton3922104
Escambia379573
Tallapoosa3637143
Clarke344553
Chambers3434111
Dallas3428142
Pike293173
Marion288996
Lawrence286287
Winston258668
Bibb246558
Marengo245357
Geneva240670
Pickens226357
Barbour213951
Hale212969
Fayette202857
Butler201666
Henry183741
Cherokee178240
Monroe166739
Randolph165441
Washington157136
Macon147845
Crenshaw146955
Clay146254
Cleburne140341
Lamar133933
Lowndes133151
Wilcox123125
Bullock117736
Conecuh107224
Perry106427
Sumter101032
Coosa90324
Greene88932
Choctaw56123
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 783484

Reported Deaths: 11547
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby880221518
Davidson82248874
Knox46569589
Hamilton40761463
Rutherford38847388
Williamson25536204
Sumner21597320
Montgomery17563213
Out of TN1726097
Wilson16662211
Unassigned15872126
Sullivan14527275
Blount14213185
Bradley13111141
Washington12856234
Maury12284162
Sevier12182165
Putnam10671170
Madison10143232
Robertson9043121
Anderson8113158
Hamblen8097166
Greene7317145
Tipton6986103
Coffee6442115
Dickson6303106
Gibson6204141
Cumberland6141123
Carter6004155
McMinn597593
Roane595096
Bedford5848120
Loudon574566
Jefferson5729119
Lawrence558283
Monroe540691
Warren533777
Hawkins530298
Dyer5250101
Franklin477185
Fayette469373
Obion437195
Lincoln416762
Rhea416373
Cocke404696
Cheatham398744
Marshall393157
Campbell383759
Weakley380060
Giles375997
Henderson362674
Carroll349481
White340366
Hardeman339465
Macon337973
Hardin332463
Lauderdale310043
Henry301875
Marion296345
Scott289144
Wayne288830
Overton286758
Claiborne285369
McNairy269353
Hickman267941
DeKalb267651
Haywood265260
Smith258336
Grainger245246
Trousdale240122
Morgan231438
Fentress230344
Johnson217538
Chester202748
Bledsoe201410
Crockett197447
Unicoi182247
Polk179822
Cannon178930
Union174234
Grundy170530
Lake167926
Sequatchie157727
Humphreys155821
Decatur154437
Benton151339
Lewis147625
Meigs127023
Jackson125734
Stewart124825
Clay107231
Houston103932
Perry103628
Moore94716
Van Buren79820
Pickett74823
Hancock50012

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