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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: 522512

Reported Deaths: 10790
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson755371494
Mobile39129799
Madison34124500
Tuscaloosa25408444
Montgomery24059573
Shelby23225242
Baldwin20730302
Lee15638166
Calhoun14358311
Morgan14171273
Etowah13705348
Marshall12012220
Houston10416279
Elmore10024203
Limestone9862148
Cullman9509191
St. Clair9486236
Lauderdale9280233
DeKalb8762183
Talladega8127173
Walker7151276
Autauga6763106
Jackson6762110
Blount6532133
Colbert6236132
Coffee5436113
Dale4781111
Russell431239
Franklin421382
Chilton4130110
Covington4069115
Tallapoosa3922148
Escambia390374
Dallas3528150
Chambers3519122
Clarke347360
Marion3076100
Pike306676
Lawrence296395
Winston273272
Bibb256761
Marengo248561
Geneva246475
Pickens233259
Barbour227155
Hale218675
Butler213268
Fayette209660
Henry188444
Cherokee182744
Randolph177841
Monroe173140
Washington165538
Macon156548
Clay150255
Crenshaw149557
Cleburne147041
Lamar140034
Lowndes137353
Wilcox124727
Bullock122040
Conecuh109728
Perry107726
Sumter103332
Coosa99428
Greene91434
Choctaw58824
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 835842

Reported Deaths: 12081
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby930851587
Davidson88030924
Knox49813624
Hamilton43402485
Rutherford42319420
Williamson27545216
Sumner23492341
Montgomery19623224
Wilson18472229
Out of TN1803295
Unassigned16760132
Sullivan16184287
Blount15180194
Bradley14599147
Washington14177242
Maury13211169
Sevier13166175
Putnam11168173
Madison10789241
Robertson9607130
Anderson8627171
Hamblen8498171
Greene7739152
Tipton7226104
Coffee6831121
Dickson6734109
Cumberland6568127
Carter6468156
Bedford6426129
Gibson6402144
McMinn636597
Roane6191102
Jefferson6073121
Loudon601669
Lawrence580686
Hawkins5781106
Monroe570995
Warren551381
Dyer5361104
Franklin508688
Fayette492178
Obion450296
Cheatham444454
Cocke443798
Rhea431275
Lincoln430663
Marshall411158
Campbell409662
Weakley402862
Giles395399
Henderson372975
Macon358077
Carroll357582
White354868
Hardin349766
Hardeman346464
Lauderdale314444
Henry312475
Marion309946
Claiborne306273
Scott305545
Overton296961
Wayne294334
Hickman280546
McNairy276854
DeKalb275653
Smith274838
Haywood268361
Grainger259149
Trousdale249022
Morgan246039
Fentress238546
Johnson231638
Bledsoe209711
Chester209451
Crockett201048
Polk200024
Unicoi194549
Cannon188931
Union186034
Grundy177933
Humphreys174221
Lake169526
Sequatchie166728
Benton163240
Decatur157338
Lewis155826
Meigs134823
Stewart130828
Jackson129935
Clay109031
Houston108533
Perry105728
Moore100017
Van Buren83421
Pickett75624
Hancock54912

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