Officials with the Montana Department of Health and Human Services (DPHHS) announced on Wednesday that there are now 19 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 variant strains in the state.
According to a map of variant strains provided by DPHHS, there has been a total of two cases of a California variant strain—identified as B.1.427—in Beaverhead and Silver Bow counties.
There has been a total of eight cases of another California variant, B.1.429, in Cascade, Glacier, Hill, Jefferson, Madison, Phillips, Roosevelt, and Valley counties.
There has been one case of a New York variant, B.1.526, confirmed in Cascade County.
These 11 cases were detected in specimens from Montana residents that were submitted for testing from January to early March 2021. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notified DPHHS of the test results over the past two days.
The California and New York strains had not yet been classified by the CDC when these samples were submitted for testing.
In addition to these 11 cases, eight total cases of the B.1.1.7 U.K. variant have now been confirmed in Gallatin County residents. Three of those were confirmed on Tuesday.
The CDC has three categories of COVID variants: variant of interest, variant of concern and variant of high consequence. All four of the variant strains confirmed in Montana are listed as variants of concern. There are currently no variants of high consequence in the U.S.
“Montana continues to submit both random and suspect COVID-19 samples to the CDC for testing,” DPHHS Director Adam Meier said. “As more surveillance and testing continues, it’s not surprising to find more confirmed variant cases in Montana and the US. The information that is learned through identifying more variants will be vital going forward.”
Meier said getting vaccinated is the best thing Montanans can do to protect themselves from COVID-19, including the new variants. Montanans are also urged to continue practicing basic public health prevention methods: wearing a mask, practicing social distancing by staying six feet apart, staying home if you are sick, covering your cough, washing your hands often, and avoiding large crowds.
The most current COVID-19 data for Montana according to data compiled by MTN News can be found here: