COVID-19 variant found in 'Baltimore metro,' Maryland governor says

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan calls on all of Maryland's county school systems to immediately make every effort to return to some form of in-person instruction no later than March 1 during a news conference on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, in Annapolis, Md. Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon is standing by him. (AP Photo/Brian Witte)

A variant of COVID-19 that officials say could be more transmissible than the common strain has been found near Baltimore, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Saturday.

An adult living in the "Baltimore metro region" was found to have been infected with the so-called South African strain, Hogan said in a news release. The infected person had not traveled abroad recently, and the variant was "likely" spread through community transmission, he said.

Contact tracing effort are under way, and Hogan urged people to continue to wear masks and practice social distancing. 

Hogan's announcement came after officials in South Carolina on Thursday confirmed the first known cases of the new strain in the U.S.

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At the federal level, President Joe Biden's administration is ramping up gene sequencing efforts in an attempt to better identify new variants of COVID-19,. reported Politico. That move came after a more transmissible variant first found in the United Kingdom was found late last year throughout the U.S.

The South African variant has shown some resistance to the Moderna vaccine, prompting the drug maker to announce its intention to roll out a new booster shot.