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U.K. Variant Of COVID-19 Detected In Two People Connected To UNH's Durham Campus

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

The University of New Hampshire announced Monday it has identified two cases of the coronavirus variant first discovered in the United Kingdom.

The school, which has engaged in one of the state’s most ambitious testing regiments, said the cases were tied to its Durham campus, but did not disclose if those who tested positive are students or faculty.

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State public health officials announced the first confirmed resident with the variant last month, linking that case to someone who had recently traveled internationally. Since then, at least five other cases in the state have been confirmed, according to data from the CDC.

The U.K. variant, also known as the B.1.1.7 variant, is a more contagious form of COVID-19, though early studies suggest already approved vaccinations remain effective.

UNH says it recently began running genomic sequencing on positive coronavirus cases, including a batch of several hundred cases from earlier this semester. 

Paul Dean, chief of campus police and a co-chair of the university's Testing and Tracing Committee, announced the test results Monday, saying the results were “not unexpected.”

UNH is requiring students and faculty to submit to regular COVID-19 screenings. In the past week alone, the school performed more than 12,000 tests, identifying 89 positive cases. In early February, a surge in positive cases blamed on student fraternization led to a temporary shut-down of in-person classes.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.

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