Novel coronavirus information

February 9, 2021

UK coronavirus variant detected at the UW (Message to Seattle students and employees)

This message is being sent to students and employees at the University of Washington’s Seattle campus.

Dear UW Community,

Genetic sequencing of samples from the Husky Coronavirus Testing program yesterday detected the B.1.1.7 or “UK” variant of the coronavirus in a Seattle campus student’s test from late January. The student is doing well and out of their isolation period, and I want to thank them for following appropriate health practices and contacting EH&S. The student had a small number of close contacts and those people have been notified.

Originating in the United Kingdom, the B.1.1.7 variant is 30%–50% more contagious than the coronavirus variant most prevalent in our region. This means it takes less exposure to the virus to infect you. It also means that a small number of cases in a community can more quickly turn into another wave of infections and the reinstatement of health restrictions.

The B.1.1.7 variant was first detected in our region last month, so its detection in our UW community is not unexpected. But it is a reminder of the importance of each of us stepping up our own COVID prevention efforts.

Additionally, while Spring Break is just around the corner and falling case counts might make it look like it’s safer to travel, the risk remains high and you should continue to avoid all but the most essential trips.

The Seattle Flu Study will continue to sequence positive samples from the Husky Coronavirus Testing program in order to determine the prevalence of this and other virus variants in our community.

The coronavirus spreads when we let our guard down, and this new variant is even better at taking advantage of our lapses. We’re all fatigued, but we can control the virus and get back to a more normal way of living and learning if we stay on our guard and each continue to do our part.


Geoffrey S. Gottlieb, M.D., Ph.D.
Chair, University Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases (ACCD)
Medical Director, Environmental Health & Safety Department
Professor, School of Medicine, Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Center for Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases