University of Illinois monitoring COVID-19 variant

By Jose Zepeda

URBANA, Ill. — The University of Illinois continues to monitor the emergence of COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7, according to a massmail sent out by Chancellor Robert Jones.

This follows as the total number of B.1.1.7 cases on campus reached 13, as of Sunday, Feb. 28. The B.1.1.7 variant, as well as variant B.1.351, are known to be more contagious compared to other variants of COVID-19.

As of Tuesday, Illinois has seen 69 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, and one case of the B.1.351 variant. The B.1.17 variant first emerged in the United Kingdom, while the B.1.351 variant first emerged in South Africa. Both variants are expected to be the dominant form of COVID-19 by the end of March or April.

The University of Illinois massmail logo.

In the massmail, Chancellor Jones says he strongly encourages everyone eligible to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

“We are grateful to CUPHD for their vaccination leadership, and we will continue to share any vaccination opportunities for our faculty, staff and students,” he said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are effective against both variants.

The Illinois Department of Public Health said they are expecting to receive the first shipments of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Wednesday. According to a trial set up by Johnson & Johnson, the vaccine is effective against variant B.1.351. It had a 64% effectiveness against any symptomatic disease and a 100% effectiveness against hospitalization and death, though it is unknown how effective it is against variant B.1.1.7.

Unlike the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, a second dose is not required for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Chancellor Jones also said that though the variants pose a potential threat, the university’s rapid saliva test is effective and quick enough to keep the campus safe.

At the same time, Chancellor Jones urges everyone to do their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“It will be vital that we all remain vigilant in our COVID-19 safety practices,” he said. “It is also more important than ever for individuals who test positive for COVID-19 to isolate immediately.”

Jose Zepeda

Jose Zepeda is a senior at the University of Illinois majoring in journalism and minoring in political science. He is now on his third year with Good Morning Illini, previously serving as director, reporter and crew member. He is also currently a digital intern for WILL, the NPR- and PBS- affiliate in Urbana and vice-president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists University of Illinois chapter. He also has his own podcast with fellow GMI-er Angelle Cortes called Just Chillin’. He brings previous experience as a features intern at The News-Gazette and as a daytime news editor at The Daily Illini. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @JoseZepedaTV.