Updated w/vid: Anne Arundel Public Health Officer speaks on B117 coronavirus strain, discovered here

The Anne Arundel County Department of Health received confirmation today, Wednesday, January 13, from the CDC of two cases of the B-117 strain of the SARS-COV-2 virus which causes COVID-19. Today, the county's health department provided a video FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) hosted by its public health officer responding to some possible questions regarding the new variant: In an Anne Arundel County press conference yesterday, Tuesday, January 12, the subject of the variant strain of the virus had come up, and county Public Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman answered questions from the press. He confirmed variant strains of virus occur normally, but that B-117 was of particular note because is was expected to be more contagious between people. Reports indicate B-117 is up to 70 percent more contagious than the original form of SARS-COV-2 according to the British government. “Variants have been happening throughout the pandemic,” Dr. Kalyanaraman said. “This is noteworthy for how quickly it transmits. ,but there have been other variants of the COVID virus. As of Wednesday, January 13, the county reports 393 residents as having died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. There were almost 580,000 residents in the county as projected by the U.S. Census in 2019. Calculations from the numbers indicate 4.95 percent of the county has been recognized as having contracted the virus. Of those known to have contracted the virus, 1.37 percent have died. This 1.37 percent of the deaths means that point zero six eight (.068) percent of the total Anne Arundel County population are known to have died due to COVID-19 pandemic.. Dr. Kalyanaraman recognized the new strain’s negative impact even before it was reported to have arrived today. “It doesn’t seem to be more deadly,” he said. “But because it moves faster, more people are getting infected and that effect hospitalizations.” The doctor said yesterday that in speaking with hospital officials, he knew that hospitals were already expecting increased patient admissions over the next few weeks to a month. “They’ve already seen our case rate go up and they’ve had to make some changes in terms of scheduling surgeries,” he said. Case rates are “extremely high”, he reported, at around 10.5 percent per 100,000 people. The current goal is to keep that number under 5 percent, he indicated. But, so far, local hospitals have been able to bear up against the increase. “Our occupancy rate in the hospitals is 85 percent for acute care and 86 percent for the intensive care units,” Kalyanaraman said. Death rates are once again back up to what they were up to in April and May at about 20 deaths per week in Anne Arundel County due to COVID-19. “Unfortunately, as we see hospitalizations increase, we’re going to see those deaths increase as well,” the doctor said. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan reported in a press conference that a couple under the age of 65 had contracted the new B117 strain, after a trip to Great Britain. They and their two children were in quarantine. Hogan said Maryland is testing at five times the national average. He believed the new strain was likely already widely disseminated. “I think it’s pretty much everywhere,” he said. On the bright side, Dr, Kalyanaraman reported 11,000 COVID-19 vaccinations had already been conducted in the county. And another 5,000 were expected to be completed in the next week. “We get vaccine allotments weekly,” he said. “Our goal is to, by the end of that week, to have all those vaccines out the door. We’ve done that.”