A quirk of COVID-19 tests can track the new coronavirus variant

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A traveler at Los Angeles International Airport takes a COVID-19 test December 22nd. | Photo by Mario Tama / Getty Images

Health officials in the United States may be able to use a fluke of COVID-19 testing to monitor the spread of a more contagious form of the virus, which was identified in the country for the first time this week. The variant is spreading widely across the United Kingdom, and has been found in over a dozen countries so far — including the US.

Experts don’t think the coronavirus variant is more deadly than other forms of the virus, and the vaccines already developed should still protect against the new strain. But the variant does appear to spread more easily, and uncontrolled outbreaks would overwhelm hospitals more quickly.

So far, two US cases have been detected in patients with COVID-19, one in Colorado and one in California….

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