Cars line up at a 10-lane mass COVID-19 vaccination site at Rentschler Field in late January. Cloe Poisson /

Connecticut’s first confirmed case of a relatively rare and more contagious variant of COVID-19 originally detected in South Africa involves a Fairfield County resident with no recent history of travel, state officials said Monday.

The infected resident, who is described only as between ages 60 and 70, is hospitalized in New York and doing well, officials said. The B.1.351 variant of the virus was discovered in South Africa in October and in the U.S. in late January.

Only 17 cases caused by the variant had been detected in the U.S. as of Sunday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The variant now is present in eight states.

Connecticut also has 42 of the 1,173 confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 variant first found in the United Kingdom, a reminder of the need for vigilance even as the state’s winter surge of cases continues to subside, Gov. Ned Lamont said.

The British variant, which is suspected of causing a more dangerous version of COVID, is present in 40 states. The South African variant is more contagious but not necessarily more dangerous, officials said.

“Seeing another variant in our state reminds us yet again the severity of this pandemic and reinforces the need for us to take all of the necessary precautions which have proven to be successful over the past year,” Lamont said.

The state recorded 2,905 new COVID cases in the 270,242 tests returned since Friday. a positivity rate of 2.98%. Hospitalizations for COVID continued to fall, but 66 new deaths brought the overall toll in the state to 7,447 deaths.

Connecticut had a daily average of 31.9 new cases per 100,000 people last week, slightly more than the national per-capita rate of 28.3. The rates in neighboring states were 28.8 in Massachusetts, 37.8 in New York and 39.5 in Rhode Island

Dr. Deidre Gifford, the acting commissioner of public health, urged residents to wear properly fitted masks or consider double-masking, using a disposable mask under a cloth one.

Disposable masks do not fit well, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend using a cloth mask to press the disposable one to the wearer’s face.

The combination of multiple layers and a better fit make the masks more effective in preventing transmission.

“With the variants currently circulating in the United States and in Connecticut, it is more important than ever to prevent transmission of the virus,” Gifford said. “We do that by ensuring that masks are being worn correctly and are as effective as possible. Masks should always cover the nose and mouth completely.”

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Mark PazniokasCapitol Bureau Chief

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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