2 cases of Brazilian COVID-19 variant confirmed in Louisiana

Health officials push vaccination as the best defense
A Tropical Medicine University virology lab researcher works to develop a test that will detect...
A Tropical Medicine University virology lab researcher works to develop a test that will detect the P.1 variant of the new coronavirus, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, March 4, 2021. The variant, which was first found in Manaus, Brazil, appears to be more contagious than other COVID-19 strains. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)(Andre Penner | AP)
Updated: Apr. 29, 2021 at 10:29 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Officials with the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) say they have confirmed the state’s first two identified cases of the SARS-CoV-2 virus known as the Brazil P.1 variant.

The two cases of the Brazilian variant were detected in individuals in the Greater New Orleans area and southwest Louisiana.

Officials say neither individual that tested positive for the variant reported a history of travel. They also said neither individual had received the COVID-19 vaccines.

“We know it’s in other people, so we know it’s out there,” Dr. Jeffrey Elder with LCMC said.

LDH officials believe there are other cases of the Brazilian variant circulation in Louisiana even those these are the first two confirmed cases of it.

Even though these are the first two cases identified, not every person testing positive for COVID will have a sample tested for the variants.

“As we see less people you know, social distancing and masking, we have more opportunities for this virus to go into the community,” Elder said.

The Brazilian variant is the third variant of COVID-19 detected in Louisiana, according to LDH. The B1.1.7 variant, known as the U.K. variant, and the B.1.427/429 variant, known as the California variant, were detected earlier this year.

“We think the Brazil P.1 variant is more transmissible, it may actually cause more severe disease process as well, and it may not be quite as susceptible to some of the therapeutics that we have like monoclonal antibodies,” Elder said.

Health officials say receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to be protected against the coronavirus and variants like the Brazilian variant.

That’s why through Together NOLA, the state is reaching out to areas that are behind in vaccinations due to either a lack of access or general hesitancy.

“Part of having this vaccination event has been an opportunity to open their minds and open their opportunities to connect with community, to come to a place that they know, a church in their neighborhood, and to connect with others,” Kahlida Lloyd, an organizer with Together NOLA, said.

The team hit the streets with All for One Brass Band in tow, going door to door to let residents in the East know there will be an event Friday to meet their needs and resources, while answering questions with their own vaccine experiences and sharing the state hotline.

“We actually tell the canvassers that you are not on a mission to persuade anyone to get vaccinated, you are on a mission to create access and create connection and create community,” Lloyd said.

Friday’s event in New Orleans East will be from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at St. Maria Goretti church on Crowder Boulevard. Walk-ups are welcome, but you can also sign up at togethernola.com.

There’s going to be music , a free fish fry and smoothie king gift cards as extra incentive.

“If we can get more people vaccinated, we’ll have less transmission including of these variants, and there’ll be less chance for more mutation to have additional variants that pop up that could be, you know, more worrisome in the future,” Elder said.

Everyone 16 years of age and above is currently eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Louisiana. Information about vaccination locations can be found by calling the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at 855-453-0774. The Hotline can also connect individuals with medical professionals to answer questions about the vaccines or help callers schedule vaccine appointments.

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