SIMLA, Colo. — An isolated ranching community on the high plains is the last place its residents expect to be first for anything, especially a new, more infectious variant of the coronavirus. But on Wednesday, state health officials announced that the first known case of the variant in the United States had been confirmed at a nursing home in Simla, Colo.
The variant had infected a National Guard soldier sent to help with a Covid-19 outbreak at the town’s Good Samaritan Society nursing home. A second soldier at the nursing home tested positive and may also have the variant, Emily Travanty, the interim director of the state public health laboratory, said on Wednesday in a conference call with reporters.
All 26 residents of the nursing home and 20 of its 24 regular employees have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent weeks, and four residents have died. It was not clear whether the two National Guard soldiers were infected at the nursing home or had picked up the virus before they came to Simla. They arrived on Dec. 23, after most of the cases at the facility had occurred, said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, Colorado’s state epidemiologist.
Simla is an unlikely place for a virus variant only recently detected in the United Kingdom to turn up. Most things that happen don’t happen here. Trends come and go without notice. News is usually a thing watched from a distance. For generations this windswept stretch of short-grass prairie perched at 6,000 feet, about 80 miles southeast of Denver, has been shaped mainly by the timeless rhythms of raising cattle.
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