Dozens of coronavirus cases have been linked to a daycare in Nebraska, health officials say, and many of them have proved to be a variant that’s more easily spread.
The Douglas County Health Department said Friday that contact tracing tied an Omaha daycare facility to more than 100 COVID-19 cases.
More than half of Rosewood Academy Childcare and Preschool’s staff members and students have been affected, officials said, WOWT reported.
Many of the cases were caused by a COVID-19 variant called B.1.1.7 — better known as the United Kingdom variant, the health department said.
Officials said the outbreak is especially concerning because the variant is more contagious than other strains.
Health officials don’t know the exact number of U.K. variant cases tied to Rosewood Academy because Nebraska doesn’t do genomic sequencing on each sample, ABC News reported.
Rosewood Academy closed its Northwest facility March 18 after the first cases were confirmed, according to KMTV.
At the time, the daycare said it had gone above and beyond to mitigate the spread of the virus.
“The health and safety of children, families and staff are the top priority of Rosewood Academy Childcare and Preschool,” a spokesperson for daycare owner Kelli Hansen said, KETV reported.
“The spread of the United Kingdom (UK) variant at Rosewood Academy aligns with anywhere it is present – it spreads more easily, and children are more susceptible to it. Procedures and protocols for prevention are the same as other variants of the virus, utilizing thorough screening processes, hand washing and cleaning procedures with staff members, children and families.”
The daycare later said it was “temporarily and voluntarily” closing all its locations for two weeks to “devote 100% of our immediate time and energy to defending our business and our reputations through the pendency of this investigation,” acording to KETV.
Justin Frederick, supervisor of communicable disease epidemiology for Douglas County, said the Rosewood outbreak isn’t unprecedented and that similar incidents could happen at any kind of school, WOWT reported.
County health officials are urging childcare providers to get vaccinated.
“It is crucial that childcare providers get vaccinated,” health director Dr. Adi Pour said. “Childcare providers are eligible for the vaccine and can easily make an appointment on the DCHD website.”
Douglas County Health Department spokesman Phill Rooney agreed, adding, “This is not the time to let down your guard,” WOWT reported.
The B.1.1.7 variant was first identified in September in the United Kingdom and made its way to the U.S. by the end of December, McClatchy News reported. It was first discovered in the U.S. in Colorado.
Experts are still working to determine how effective COVID-19 vaccines are against variants, but early data suggests that the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer vaccines offered “minimal impact on antibody effectiveness” against the U.K. variant, McClatchy News reported.
More than 10,500 cases of the U.K. variant have been reported in the U.S. through Sunday, according to CDC data.