The first known case of the UK variant of the coronavirus was detected in Washington County, the health department announced Friday.
The Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department said in a statement that the state health department notified them about the discovery of the new B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant on March 12. The person who tested positive for the new strain in Washington County was tested in February, according to WOPHD.
The health department did not announce the location of the person who tested positive.
The new variants are believed to spread more easily than the past variant. It is for that reason the health department asks residents to be diligent about safety protocols, including mask-wearing in public, social distancing, getting tested after exposure and getting the vaccine when eligible.
The timing of this announcement is also striking.
County Executive Josh Schoemann announced on Thursday that he wants to begin reopening businesses, churches, schools and other institutions in Washington County to full capacity - the largest step towards reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic so far announced in southeastern Wisconsin.
Schoemann wrote in a statement that he has directed the Washington and Ozaukee Public Health Department to assist in this reopening. The executive did not announce any specifics of this rollout in regard to capacity limits or other safeguards to limit the spread of the virus.
The strain has been detected across Wisconsin, including numerous instances in southeastern Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has detected a total of 55 cases of the strain in the state, as of Thursday.