COVID-19 Variant Identified in Southwest Virginia

Feb 19, 2021

State health officials have confirmed the first case of the  B.1.351 COVID-19 variant in southwest Virginia.

The case involves an adult resident of southwest Virginia who recently returned to the Commonwealth after traveling internationally.  All contacts of the case have been identified.

In a news release Thursday evening, Dr. Noelle Bissell with the New River Health District says this news shows it’s critical that all Virginians comply now with health mitigation measures. She says more infections means the greater chance the virus will mutate, and a variant will arise.

The variant was first discovered in late 2020 in South Africa.  There have been two other cases of the B.1.351 variant in Virginia, along with 12 cases of the B 1.1.7 variant.

Here is the complete announcement from the Virginia Department of Health

(CHRISTIANSBURG, Va.) – Today’s confirmation of the first case of the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.351 in a resident of Southwest Virginia is a reminder of the need for increased vigilance in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are in a race to stop the spread of these new variants, and it’s time to double down on personal precautions,” said Noelle Bissell, MD, health director, New River Health District. “It is critical that all Virginians comply now with mitigation measures. The more people that become infected, the greater that chance the virus will mutate and a variant will arise that could undermine all our vaccination efforts.”

Public health recommendations for stopping the spread of COVID-19 will work for all COVID-19 variants. These include wearing masks correctly, practicing physical distancing, avoiding crowds and prolonged close contact, washing hands often, getting vaccinated for COVID-19 when it is your turn, and staying home if you are infected with COVID-19 or if you have had close contact with someone with COVID-19.

In addition to this case of the B.1.351 variant, two other cases of the B.1.351 variant and 12 cases of the SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 variant have now been identified in Virginia, as of 5 p.m. today. As COVID-19 surveillance continues, additional cases with SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern will likely be identified.

The B.1.351 variant is associated with increased person-to-person transmission of COVID-19. At this time, there is no evidence that infections with this variant cause more severe disease. To date, the B.1.351 variant has been identified in nine other U.S. states.

Today’s confirmation of the B.1.351 variant is in an adult resident of Southwest Virginia who recently returned to Virginia after international travel. All contacts of the case have been identified and appropriately managed. No other information on this person or the circumstances of the exposure will be provided.

For information on COVID-19 in Virginia, visit For information on COVID-19 testing in Virginia, visit