By Audra Streetman

(CBS4) – Colorado health officials have identified five cases of the COVID-19 B.1.1.7 variant in the state. Colorado was the first state in the country to identify the COVID-19 variant, which was previously discovered in the United Kingdom.

Scientists believe the COVID-19 variant is more contagious but not more severe in symptoms. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is routinely screening samples submitted to the state lab to identify the variant.

(credit: CBS)

The most recent variant case is a patient in their 20s in Boulder County. CDPHE says a private lab discovered the variant strain and the state lab confirmed the results.

Other variant cases were found among National Guard members deployed to the Good Samaritan Society in Elbert County and staff at the state-run Veterans Community Living Center at Fitzsimons in Aurora.

(credit: CBS)

Starting on Thursday, CDPHE will begin updating confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 variant each day around 4 p.m. on the state’s COVID-19 data dashboard.

“Scientists believe this variant is far more contagious, so I’m pleased we are adding this information to our website to help keep Coloradans informed of disease transmission trends in our state,” said Scott Bookman, incident commander, COVID-19 response.

The state lab is conducting about 5-10% of statewide testing analysis. Other labs in the state are also submitting batches of positive COVID-19 tests to CDPHE so they can be screened for the variant.

Current COVID-19 vaccines are thought to be effective against the variant. Epidemiologists say people can protect themselves from COVID-19 and the variant strain by washing their hands, wearing a mask in public, social distancing and avoiding gatherings.

Audra Streetman