Speed Reads

the coronavirus crisis

The U.S. has its 1st confirmed case of the coronavirus variant from South Africa

A highly transmissible variant of COVID-19 has arrived in the U.S.

A wave of quickly-spreading strains of the coronavirus have been emerging around the world, including one first found in South Africa that is seemingly no more deadly but more transmissible than the original strain. The U.S. reported its first cases of that B1.351 strain Thursday, with health officials confirming two people in South Carolina have contracted it.

Two adults from different parts of South Carolina who had not traveled recently tested positive for the B1.351 strain, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said. "That's frightening," Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious diseases physician at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, told The Associated Press, because if these two unrelated people got the strain, "it's probably more widespread."

Scientists have been tracking the emergence of the South Africa-based strain, as well as ones first identified in London and Brazil. The B.117 strain first found in the U.K. has been found in several parts of the U.S. Meanwhile the U.S. reported its first case of the P.1 variant found in Brazil on Monday, after a person who had recently traveled to Brazil tested positive for the strain once they returned to Minnesota.

The two COVID-19 vaccines currently in distribution around the U.S. have been deemed effective against the B.117 strain. But Moderna's vaccine produced less antibodies when used against the B1.351 strain, leading the company to begin working on a booster shot to increase its effectiveness.