May 3—An increase of COVID-19 cases in Sedgwick County from the United Kingdom and Brazilian coronavirus strains accounted for most of the state's 14% increase in variant cases over the weekend.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment on Monday reported 54 new variant cases since Friday, raising the totals to 438 cases from variants of concern and seven cases from variants of interest.

Sedgwick County had 39 of the new variant cases: 16 new cases of the UK variant and 23 new cases of the main Brazil variant. Sedgwick County now has 189 total cases from variants of concern and six cases from variants of interest.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified five strains as variants of concern — the UK and Brazil lineages, one from South Africa and two from California. All five have been confirmed to be in Kansas. The four variants of interest — one from Brazil and three from New York — have also been found in Kansas.

The CDC reports that evidence shows the variants of concern are more transmissible, which can lead to rapid rises in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. They may also cause more severe disease, weaken the effectiveness of treatments and reduce the protection of antibodies from previous infection or vaccination. Variants of interest have specific genetic mutations that are predicted to affect transmission, diagnostics, therapeutics or immunity. They may also have an increased proportion of cases or unique outbreak clusters.

Aside from the number of confirmed cases, it is unclear how prevalent the variants are in the Wichita area and statewide. Variants are identified through genome sequencing, which is performed on a fraction of all positive COVID-19 cases.

The CDC reports variant proportions by state, but Kansas-specific statistics are not available. In the four-state region of Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa, 65% of all samples collected were the UK variant, 12% were the California variants and 1% were the Brazil variant, with other strains also reported.

The data was reported April 27 for specimens collected during the two-week period ending April 10. More recent numbers on variant proportions are not available.

Since the start of the pandemic, Kansas has had 309,645 confirmed and probable cases, 10,279 hospitalizations, 2,841 ICU admissions and 4,985 deaths, according to the KDHE. There have also been 13 cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children associated with COVID-19.

Over the weekend, Kansas had 515 new cases, 31 new hospitalizations, 13 new ICU admissions and three new deaths. Sedgwick County had 126 new cases, three new hospitalizations, one new ICU admission and two new deaths.

The KDHE reports pandemic totals in Sedgwick County of 56,258 cases, 1,722 hospitalizations, 548 ICU admissions and 745 deaths.

State data show first-dose vaccinations are slowing down compared to second shots as public health officials combat hesitancy and rejection.

As of Monday, the KDHE reported more than 1.9 million doses administered out of nearly 2.6 million doses distributed to the state.

The 1,124,554 people vaccinated with a first shot are 38.6% of the state population, an increase of 5,625 first doses over the weekend. The 863,591 people fully vaccinated are 29.6% of the population and an increase of 17,085 complete inoculations.

Sedgwick County's vaccination rates are lower than the state's. The county is up to 35.6% of the population vaccinated with at least one dose and 26.4% of the population fully vaccinated, according to the KDHE.

(c)2021 The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kan.)

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