Large COVID-19 outbreak at Dane Co. childcare center linked to UK variant

This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (orange)—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells (green) cultured in the lab.

MADISON, Wis. — Public health officials in Dane County say a recent large COVID-19 outbreak at a childcare center is being linked to the so-called “UK variant” of the virus.

In a release, Public Health Madison & Dane County did not identify the childcare center but did say contact tracing revealed the disease spread quickly among children, parents and childcare workers. As of Monday, 21 children and workers have tested positive for COVID-19, along with 14 family members of those children or workers.

Most of the children infected had mild symptoms, according to health officials. They say the outbreak underscores the importance of getting kids in childcare and school settings tested for the virus.

“We know the variants are more infectious, and younger children can’t be vaccinated yet, so this is an important reminder that we must all continue to take precautions. Get tested if you are showing any symptoms, get your children tested if they are showing symptoms, and get vaccinated as soon as you can. The vaccines are highly effective against severe disease and death from COVID-19 infection, even with the most prevalent variants,” PHMDC Director Janel Heinrich said.

As of last week, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services had been able to confirm at least 139 cases of the B.1.1.7 “UK Variant” of the coronavirus. As the number of variants grows, the state is now tracking those cases on the DHS website.