BAR HARBOR (WGME) — One day after Massachusetts confirmed a new strain of COVID-19 is in the state, researchers here in Maine said it’s not a matter of if it will reach the state, but when.
Hundreds of COVID-19 cases a week. That’s what researchers at The Jackson Laboratory are studying and Assistant Professor Ryan Tewhey said it might not be enough.
“We think it’s a good sampling strategy to catch it when it arrives but it’s not going to catch it as soon as it steps in,” he said.
Researchers at Jackson Lab are studying only 5 percent of all COVID-19 cases in Maine to track down any new variants.
“While we resequencing the samples from the past couple of days, today there’s still a lag in what we’re doing,” Tewhey said.
Tewhey said just because they haven’t seen a new strain of the virus doesn’t mean it’s not already here.
“Even though there are very few cases right now, if it starts to grow it can get out of control very quickly,” he said.
He said the new strain isn’t more deadly but is about 50 percent more transmissible, so it’s easier for someone to acquire it from someone else.
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention laboratory sends Jackson Lab the RNA, or noninfectious, genetic blueprint of the virus used to look for mutations and they just started more intense research a few weeks ago.
“Knowing that it’s coming as well as knowing when it arrives, we need to really be very vigilant,” Tewhey said.
Researchers at Jackson Labs said they’ll be the first to know when a new strain reaches Maine and they’ll notify the CDC immediately.