Maryland State With Most Cases of Dangerously Mutated R.1 Variant

The R.1 variant of COVID has been more prevalent in Maryland than in other U.S. states since it was first detected in the country, according to sequencing data.

The figures, presented by the Outbreak.Info project, which uses the GISAID virus database, shows that R.1 has had an estimated prevalence of just under 2 percent in Maryland overall, with 399 sequenced samples.

The state is followed by West Virginia and Kentucky, both with an overall prevalence of more than 1 percent, but less than 1.5 percent.

Interest in R.1 appears to have been sparked recently with reports highlighting a Kentucky nursing home outbreak that occurred back in March. The outbreak was associated with R.1.

Despite the reports, it doesn't appear as though R.1 is spreading around the U.S. with any urgency at the moment, according to the Outbreak.Info data.

It shows that no R.1 sequences have been detected in the U.S. since August 6.

As of September 22, 10,567 sequences in the R.1 lineage had been detected worldwide, though none since August 7.

Interest in the variant may have been sparked by William A. Haseltine, a disease researcher who used to work at Harvard Medical School. He recently called R.1 a "variant to watch" in an article he wrote for Forbes on September 20.

He highlighted certain R.1 mutations such as the notorious E484K mutation, which may be better at getting around the body's immune system and could be more resistant to vaccinations.

However, R.1 isn't classified as a Variant of Interest (VoI) or a Variant of Concern (VoC) by the World Health Organization, though it is included in its Variants Under Monitoring (VUM) list.

The picture is similar at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). R.1 isn't mentioned in the agency's Variant Being Monitored (VBM) list, which includes variants that are no longer detected or are circulating at very low levels in the U.S. and therefore don't pose a significant or imminent risk or public health. Not all variants end up taking hold after they emerge.

Most of the U.S. cases appear to have occurred in around March or April.

Delta Variant Is Dominant

The Delta COVID variant is by far the most dominant variant in the country and has been for several weeks, accounting for nearly 100 percent of samples, according to CDC sequencing data.

Rising cases continue to affect certain areas. The pandemic is affecting the school year for kids in Minneapolis, according to CBS Minnesota, with at least one school having no students in the building on Wednesday morning this week.

And on Tuesday CNBC reported that a Delta outbreak had hit a highly vaccinated prison population in Texas over the summer, though few people were hospitalized.

Lab work
A stock image shows a lab worker with some test tubes. COVID sequencing data shows that Delta is still the most dominant variant in the U.S. appledesign/Getty