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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan during a press conference in Annapolis in December 2020. Photo: Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Saturday that the potentially more transmissible coronavirus variant first discovered in South Africa has been identified in the state.

Why it matters: Maryland is the second state to confirm a known case of the B.1.351 variant. Although there is no evidence that infections by this variant cause more severe disease, preliminary data indicates that it spreads faster and more easily than the original coronavirus strain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Details: The Maryland case involves an adult living in the Baltimore metro region who has not traveled internationally, "making community transmission likely," Hogan's office said.

  • "Comprehensive contact tracing efforts are underway to ensure that potential contacts are quickly identified, quarantined, and tested," the governor's office added.

The big picture: South Carolina reported the first known U.S. cases of the South African variant on Thursday.

  • Vaccine developers Moderna and Pfizer have reported that their vaccines, while still effective, offer less protection against the South African variant.

What they're saying: After South Carolina reported its cases, the CDC said that its recommendations "for slowing the spread — wearing masks, staying at least 6 feet apart from others, avoiding crowds, ventilating indoor spaces, and washing hands often — will also prevent the spread of this variant."

Go deeper: Coronavirus variants demand a tougher response

Go deeper

Updated 18 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: First known U.S. case of Omicron variant identified in California — America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron — CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers.
  2. Politics: Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come — Meta removes accounts linked to COVID disinformation effort by China.
  3. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine.
  4. World: Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people — Omicron variant detected in more countriesWHO advises people 60 or older to postpone travel due to Omicron
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Sep 28, 2021 - World

Japan to lift nationwide COVID-19 emergency restrictions

Photo: Mauro Ujetto/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Japanese government announced Tuesday that the country's coronavirus state of emergency will end this week.

State of play: Japanese economic minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said "[m]easures will be gradually eased out to prevent early re-infection." Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said restrictions will end to allow people "to resume daily lives," adding that vaccination efforts will continue to prepare for a future virus resurgence, per AP.

Sep 28, 2021 - Health

North Carolina hospital system fires 175 unvaccinated workers

Photo: Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A North Carolina-based hospital system has fired roughly 175 unvaccinated employees for failing to comply with its vaccine mandate.

Why it matters: It's one of the largest-ever cases of mass terminations spurred by a vaccine requirement. Over 99% of its 35,000 employees have adhered to the mandate, according to Novant director of media and influencer relations Megan Rivers.