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COVID-19 variant found in India reported in Memphis

April 29, 2021 GMT

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Officials in Tennessee’s most populous county said Thursday that one case of a COVID-19 variant found in India has been identified in a person who had recently traveled there.

The Shelby County Task Force said one person has been found to have contracted the B1617 variant of the coronavirus. The person is under quarantine and the person’s past contacts are being investigated, officials said.

India crossed a milestone Wednesday of 200,000 people lost to the coronavirus as new infections surged in cities and rural areas and overwhelmed health care systems. The country on Wednesday also reported 362,757 new infections, a new global record, which raised the overall total past 17.9 million.

Variant coronavirus cases have been found in Tennessee, including strains found in the United Kingdom. Officials in Memphis are still encouraging people to get tested if they feel sick or have had contact with an infected person, to help pinpoint if variants have emerged or spread.

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Shelby County is Tennessee’s largest in terms of population, with about 937,000 people, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

“Probably, what we’re seeing in our community is also happening in other parts of the United States, in counties of a similar size,” said David Sweat, chief of epidemiology for the Shelby County Health Department.

Meanwhile, the county has resumed injecting people with the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine, said Doug McGowen, the city of Memphis’ chief operating officer and a member of the task force.

Homeless people and residents who cannot leave their homes for health or other reasons have been receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccination this week, and the county plans to increase availability next week, McGowen said.

U.S. health officials last week lifted an 11-day pause on COVID-19 vaccinations using Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose shot on Friday, after scientific advisers decided its benefits outweigh a rare risk of blood clot.

Tennessee has reported more than 846,000 cases and more than 12,180 deaths from COVID-19.