South Africa COVID-19 variant identified in 2 Montgomery County residents

The South Africa variant of the novel coronavirus has been identified in two Montgomery County residents, according to health officials.

At least one other case was identified over the weekend in Maryland in a Baltimore-area resident.

READ MORE: South Africa coronavirus variant found in Maryland, Gov. Hogan says

Montgomery Count Director of Health Dr. Travis Gayles told the county council that the test result was preliminary.

They have not specified where the cases were identified in the county.

According to Governor Larry Hogan, who Tweeted later in the morning that state health officials had confirmed the cases, the two people had recently traveled abroad. He also said contact tracing efforts were underway.

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The South Africa coronavirus variant was first reported in the United States last week, when officials announced two cases in South Carolina.

Like other coronavirus mutations, the South Africa variant is believed to be more contagious than the first COVID-19 strain, but not necessarily more dangerous.

There are at least five coronavirus mutations emerging throughout the world. 

READ MORE: Seniors in Montgomery County turned away from confirmed COVID-19 vaccine appointments

Studies so far have shown the South Africa variant is more resistant to existing COVID-19 vaccines. 

But health officials including Dr. Anthony Fauci maintain that drugmakers can adapt vaccines to new emerging coronavirus strains.