By NewsDesk  @bactiman63

Officials with the Gallatin City-County Health Department have reported three cases of a variant of COVID-19 first identified in the United Kingdom, aka B.1.1.7 this week.

These are the first cases of the variant virus confirmed in the state.

Gallatin City-County Health Officer Matt Kelley said in a statement late Wednesday that the county is working with the state to investigate the source and timing of the specimens that showed signs of the variant.

“Well over 40 other states have identified the virus, so it stands to reason that it is in Montana as well,” Kelley said.

To date, 2672 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant have been reported in nearly all US states, according to the CDC–only South Dakota, Oklahoma and Vermont have yet to report a case.

Local health officials tweeted: Don’t let your guards down just yet, especially with a new variant detected in Gallatin County. Continue social distancing, wearing face coverings, washing your hands, and staying home when you’re sick.

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte tweeted: Montana has been preparing for this for some time. I encourage Montanans to continue to practice personal responsibility to protect their health and the health of their loved ones.

Overall, Montana has reported more than 100,000 total COVID-19 cases, including 1379 deaths.

State health officials said as of March 4, 2021, nearly 280,000 Montanans have received the COVID-19 vaccine first dose and nearly 100,000 people are fully immunized.