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Kan. to use genetic testing to ID highly infectious COVID-19 variant



TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas will rely on genetic tests to identify cases of a new and apparently more contagious coronavirus strain that was first seen in England, the director of the state Department of Health and Environment said this week.

No cases of the new strain have been detected in Kansas. Cases have been confirmed in Colorado, Florida and California.

Dr. Lee Norman said Kansas already does genetic testing with about 1% of COVID-19 patients and it plans to increase its lab capacity so that it can do more tests.

Norman told reporters during a Statehouse news conference this week that Kansas already has seen other variations of the virus that causes COVID-19, including a “Utah strain” and a “Wisconsin strain.”

“Viruses always change, kind of over time, with minor genetic variations. Mostly, they don’t make much difference,” Norman said. “They’re more alike than different, quite honestly.”

The state on Friday reported another 138 deaths from COVID-19 since Wednesday, for a total of 2,879 since the pandemic began. Kansas has confirmed 227,745 COVID-19 cases, an increase of 5,312 since Wednesday, the health department said.