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'Concerning' U.K. COVID Variant Spreads More Easily, Affecting Younger Population, Maryland Officials Say

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- As Maryland continues to vaccinate people against the coronavirus, officials continue to monitor COVID variants in the state.

During a press conference Tuesday, Maryland officials called the new variants "concerning" and say it's targeting the state's younger residents.

"We are in a race between the variants and vaccination rates," said Dr. David Marcozzi, COVID Incident Commander with UMMS. "Unfortunately it appears B.1.1.7,  the U.K. variant, is spreading even more easily between us and making us sicker, which is concerning."

Marcozzi said if someone is infected with B.1.1.7, it'll cause more symptoms of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

"So please keep this in mind," he added. "If you or your children start to have those concerns, get tested for COVID-19 and follow up with your doctor."

That's why officials are continuing to promote mask wearing and social distancing.

"We aren't done fighting this virus yet. This is very evident from what we were seeing with our European partners," Marcozzi added. "We need to continue to maintain our physical and mental health, which means mask wearing, getting tested for COVID-19, seeing your doctor for any care that's needed and getting vaccinated."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports Maryland has 45 new cases of the UK COVID variant since Friday. A total of 291 cases of the UK COVID-19 variant were reported in Maryland, the CDC says.

"We have to get more people vaccinated before these these variants take hold," said Gov. Larry Hogan. "The B.1.1.7 variant is becoming much more widespread throughout the country and it's mutating every day."

Hogan said there's growing concern around the New York variant of the COVID-19 -- which is similar to the UK variant and has been spreading in the New York and New Jersey area.

"We want to still advise people, if they're traveling out of state that they should get tested, and to be careful and stay vigilant because not everybody's keeping their masks on the way we are here in Maryland," he added.

Hogan said the COVID cases linked to the Naval Academy was a variant that made the midshipmen sicker.

"We had kids at the Naval Academy that were much sicker than last time and having these intestinal issues rather than respiratory issues," he said. "So we're keeping an eye on those cases. We're testing for the variants at a greater rate than just about anybody in the country."

So far, the CDC reports only one case of the Brazilian COVID variant, or P.1. in Maryland, and 25 cases of B.1.351, or the South African variant.

More than 700 new coronavirus cases were reported Tuesday, bringing the total to 401,427 cases over the span of the pandemic. The state also reached a grim milestone Tuesday as it surpassed 8,000 COVID-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department's website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ's coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

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