A celebration of life event and high school volleyball league activities have lead to the spread of the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant in Washoe County, health officials announced today.
“We’ve had a couple of gatherings or events that we know have had B.1.1.7 variant, clusters around them,” said Washoe County District Health Officer Kevin Dick. “One was a celebration of life event that occurred, and we have also had a youth volleyball league that has had a number of the be B.1.1.7 variants.”
Initial research suggests B.1.1.7 is more virulent and deadly than other COVID-19 variants. The variant was first uncovered in the United Kingdom and is widely called the U.K. variant.
The health district initially reported the new variant came from outside the area but was spread at a gathering of about 70 people. A female in her 30s attended a gathering with people from multiple states.
“So far there have been reports of 17 additional COVID-19 infections linked to this event, though not all of the 17 cases are Washoe County residents,” officials said March 12.
Officials declined to reveal more information about the new variant’s introduction into Washoe County until today. However, they said additional cases of the variant will likely be announced as the Nevada State Public Health Lab continues to process the test samples.
Dick said: “I believe that those 17 cases, not all were Washoe County residents. There were people that did travel here for that celebration, and so some of those may not show up in our Washoe County numbers, but they were tied to that gathering.”
The youth volleyball cluster, Dick added, may not have occurred on court but rather with team activities outside of matches.
“We have both club sports and high school sports involved,” he said. “There’s a crossover between those who participate in those leagues. It’s my understanding is that they were wearing masks and [using] precautions, and I think it’s important to understand…that while the cases are associated with youth athletics, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s spread on the court.
“The team builds a lot of camaraderie and are gathering together outside of the actual sporting event. And so we think that is probably a real contributing factor in the spread,” Dick added.
Officials continue to recommend people avoid large gatherings even as coronavirus cases continue to decline in the area.
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor, and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011, where he completed a dissertation on social media, journalism and crisis communications. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time research appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.