Courtesy of CT-N

HARTFORD, CT—Gov. Ned Lamont and state health officials advised extra caution Thursday as the first confirmed cases of a more infectious strain of COVID-19 were reported in Connecticut.

The infectious variant of the virus was discovered in two young residents, ages 15 and 25. Both reported recently traveling out of state. One had traveled to New York state and the other had recently returned from Ireland, Lamont said. Both live in New Haven County.

Although the new strain is believed to spread more easily, it has not been shown to be more deadly or cause more severe symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control. One of the infected residents has already completed their quarantine period and the other is currently self-isolating at home, according to a press release.

During a televised press briefing from the state Capitol, Lamont said the new strain constitutes most of the current infections in the United Kingdom, where it was first discovered. He said Connecticut residents should anticipate the same level of spread here.

“If you’re infected here in Connecticut, good chance you’re part of that highly infectious strain,” the governor said. “What does that mean to us? It just means be even more careful. What it means is if you’re standing six feet away from somebody for less than 15 minutes and you’re not wearing your mask, the chance of you getting infected if somebody nearby is infected has just gone up.”

Acting Public Health Commissioner Dr. Deidre Gifford said the state will not attempt to differentiate between the strains of COVID as it is tracking and reporting cases. That requires genomic sequencing on a scale that is not feasible. However, she said the state will continue to partner with Jackson Laboratories and the Yale School of Public Health to conduct sampling to track the frequency at which the new strain appears.

Gifford said residents should assume they have the more infectious variant if they develop symptoms.

“What that just means is take your isolation and quarantine recommendations very seriously,” she said. “For all the rest of us it means double down on the masks and the physical distancing and the ventilation etc.”

During the briefing, Lamont reported an additional 3,304 cases since Wednesday, which put Connecticut’s total number of cases over 200,000 since the pandemic began. The positivity rate dipped to 6.08% after two elevated days around 8%. The number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus dropped by 52 to 1,087 and 57 residents died as a result of the virus bringing the total number of fatalities to 6,287.

The governor also provided an update on vaccine distribution in Connecticut. As of Thursday, 99,929 first doses had been administered and 1,805 residents had received their second doses.