The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) this afternoon announced that the B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19 has been identified in samples from three Rhode Island patients. The variant was identified in these samples yesterday evening.

One patient was in their 60s, one patient was in their 50s, and one patient was in their 20s. Dr. James McDonald from the Rhode Island Department of Health confirmed during a call with reporters on Tuesday afternoon that two of the patients were from Newport County and one was from Providence County.

Dr. McDonald said during the call that they are not identifying the patients. The patients haven’t been told that they have the variant yet, according to Dr. McDonald. In response to a question from What’s Up Newp, Dr. McDonald said that the patients have cleared isolation and those who tested positive for the variant will be told soon.

According to RIDOH, these samples underwent sequencing as part of RIDOH’s COVID-19 genomic surveillance plan and these cases are still under investigation. The sequencing was performed by the Broad Institute, in collaboration with RIDOH’s State Health Laboratories. This sequencing work is supported by funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The B.1.1.7 variant was originally identified in the United Kingdom. This variant of COVID-19 is considered more contagious than the strain that has been predominant in Rhode Island through the pandemic. According to Dr. McDonald, this variant has already been identified in 40 other states.

RIDOH urgest all Rhode Islanders to continue wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and washing their hands regularly.