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Massachusetts Among States Testing COVID Samples For Fast Spreading New Variant

BOSTON (CBS/AP) - The CDC says Massachusetts is one of six states that are specifically testing coronavirus samples for the highly contagious variant from the United Kingdom. That variant has already been found in Colorado and California.

"We know that in the last 24 hours two people in the United States were confirmed to have it without having traveled anywhere or having contact with anyone who has traveled anywhere, so it's here," said Tufts Medical Center Epidemiologist Dr. Shira Doran.

There are no confirmed cases yet of the new strain of the coronavirus in Massachusetts.

The CDC says national laboratories are testing for the strain and that six states have joined the effort at the local level to monitor for the variant - Massachusetts, Connecticut, Georgia, Tennessee, Wisconsin and California.

Governor Charlie Baker said the vaccines being rolled out now will protect against the mutated strain.

"Both the Pfizer and Moderna folks have said they don't believe this variant would have any less of an impact of this ability for their products to actually work against it. It is really the primary issue is not the strength of the new strain it's the contagiousness, which obviously the rules of the game that we talked about generally would apply new contagion or not," the governor said Wednesday.

It is common for viruses to undergo minor changes as they reproduce and move through a population. Scientists have found no evidence that the variant is more lethal or causes more severe illness. But the fear is that mutations at some point will become significant enough to defeat the vaccines.

"This is not the time to gather with people outside your house, this is not the time to travel, this is not the time to forget to wear your mask or forget to keep your distance," said Dr. Doran.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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