ELKHART — A new coronavirus variant was found in Elkhart County over the weekend, the Elkhart County Health Department announced Wednesday after being notified by the Indiana Department of Health.
The B.1427 variant is a mutation of the coronavirus that was first found in California. The variant is more easily transmittable which could lead to more infections and increase hospitalizations and deaths, the Health Department said. Genetic testing will continue to be performed on specimens collected in Elkhart County.
“The presence of this variant in our community makes vaccinations even more essential for our community. Please consider vaccination of COVID-19 if you are eligible. All vaccines are still effective against the variant,” a release from health officials said.
Another variant, the B.1.1.7 from mutations found in the United Kingdom, was discovered in Elkhart County in mid-March.
There has been a slight uptick in COVID-19 infections in the county in recent weeks, as the seven-day average has grown from a recent low of 19 cases per day on March 2 to 41 as of Tuesday. The positive test rate, which runs a week behind, is now at 7 percent, up from 5.3 percent on March 2. Eleven COVID-19 deaths were reported in the county in the past 30 days; a total of 428 county residents have lost their lives to the virus, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.
The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations continues to grow following a recent low of five COVID-19 inpatients in the county in early March. Wednesday, Goshen Hospital had five COVID-19 inpatients, while Elkhart General Hospital had 23.
More than 1,000 vaccine doses are given per day in the county at the moment, and 13.4 percent of the county’s residents who are 16 or older are now fully vaccinated.
Free COVID-19 testing facilities are located at the Concord Mall, Shanklin Park in Goshen and the Anglemyer Clinic in Nappanee.
Health experts continue to recommend wearing a mask, keeping distance from others and washing hands often.