Hays CISD issued a news release in the afternoon of Feb. 10 to confirm that the Hays County resident who tested positive for the United Kingdom variant of the coronavirus, B.1.1.7, was a student at Dahlstrom Middle School.
Accordingly, DMS students were dismissed early Feb. 10. All of the school's students will transition to fully virtual instruction for the next 14 days. In-person learners are scheduled to return to campus Feb. 25.
Wright consulted with local health authorities and took the precautionary measure because the U.K. variant has been shown to be more infectious than other strains of the virus, according to the release.
“I know that learning this news may be concerning for our parents, students, and employees. I want to assure our school district family and our community that we have a strong team in place, both at the district and in the county, that continues to work diligently to keep us safe and to try to stay one step ahead of the spread of this virus," Wright said in the release. "Knowing that the U.K. variant has arrived is an unequivocal reminder that we have to remain vigilant with the tools we have at our disposal—masks, spatial distancing, handwashing, and not gathering in groups."
On Feb. 10, Hays County announced an asymptomatic individual in Hays County tested positive for the B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19 that was first discovered in the United Kingdom last fall.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.K. variant of the coronavirus spreads more rapidly than other known variants and may be associated with an increased risk of death. The CDC also noted more studies are needed to confirm whether the variant is more deadly than other strains of the virus.
A text message announcing the variant's arrival in Hays County was sent through the county's COVID-19 alert system, which can be joined by texting "COVID" to 844-928-3213.
In the message, Local Health Director Tammy Crumley said contact tracing was underway, but information was currently limited.
"The person who tested positive with this new strain of the virus was asymptomatic," Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra said in the text message. "Now is a good time to remind everyone to be extra vigilant and continue to do all the recommended safety protocols."
The CDC does not know the extent of the spread of the U.K. variant of the virus or how effective existing COVID-19 vaccines will be against it, according to a post updated on the CDC's website Feb. 2.
Austin Public Health announced its first case of the variant was discovered Feb. 3. Harris County discovered the first known case of the variant in Texas on Jan. 7 in a man who had no history of travel.
According to the CDC, two other variants of the COVID-19 virus are also circulating globally.
Variant B.1.351 was discovered in South Africa and shares some of the same mutations as the UK variant. Some cases were reported in the United States in late January.
A variant called P.1 was first discovered in travelers from Brazil when they were tested during routine screening at a Japanese airport, according to the CDC. This variant was also found in the U.S. at the end of January, but the CDC said it contains additional mutations that may affect whether antibodies recognize it.
However, the CDC's post said studies conducted so far have found antibodies generated through vaccination with currently authorized vaccines recognize these variants, and more studies are underway.