First known cases of Covid variant from South Africa identified in the U.S.

“The arrival of the SARS-CoV-2 variant in our state is an important reminder to all South Carolinians that the fight against this deadly virus is far from over,” said Brannon Traxler, the interim public health director of the state’s health agency. “While more COVID-19 vaccines are on the way, supplies are still limited. Every one of us must recommit to the fight by recognizing that we are all on the front lines now. We are all in this together.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement to POLITICO that it was aware of the cases and “early in its efforts to understand this variant and will continue to provide updates as we learn more.”

According to laboratory research conducted by Moderna, which produces one of the two vaccines authorized by the FDA for emergency use, the South African variant showed a sixfold reduction in the production of neutralizing antibodies.

Public health officials have kept a close eye on emerging strains of the coronavirus, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said. Moderna announced Monday that it would take a “proactive” approach and work on a Covid-19 booster shot to be more effective against these new variants.

In response, President Joe Biden on Monday reinstated coronavirus-related travel restrictions on most non-U.S. travelers coming from countries including Brazil and the United Kingdom, where variants have been identified. Starting Saturday, most non-U.S. citizens traveling from South Africa will also be banned.

Several cases of a variant first identified in the U.K. have been found in the U.S., and on Monday, Minnesota public health officials announced they had identified the first known case of the strain first identified in Brazil.