APTOPIX Virus Outbreak Britain

A man wearing a mask against coronavirus walks past an NHS advertisement about COVID-19 in London, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. British health authorities plan to test tens of thousands of people in a handful of areas of England in an attempt to stop a new variant of the coronavirus first identified in South Africa spreading in the community. The Department of Health says a small number of people in England who had not travelled abroad have tested positive for the strain.

Nineteen new cases have been found in Massachusetts of a mutant form of the virus that causes COVID-19, but none of them in Berkshire County, the state Department of Public Health said Sunday.

Those cases add to 10 other cases in the state already linked to the variant first identified in the United Kingdom. The British variant is a concern because it has been found to spread more easily, leading to outbreaks in Florida and California, the DPH said.

Neither of two other known variants, one found in South Africa and another in Brazil, have been confirmed in Massachusetts.

Of the 29 cases identified Massachusetts so far, only four have been associated with travel. That means most of the infections are the result of community transmission, the DPH said.

Of the 19 new cases, most were identified in Worcester County (14), with three cases in Norfolk County and two in Middlesex County.

The westernmost infection linked to the British variant reported by the DPH concerns a man in his 20s in Hampden County. That case was among the first group of the mutant form — known as B.1.1.7 — reported by the DPH since Jan. 17.

In all, there have been 17 cases of the British variant in Worcester County, one in Hampden County, two in Middlesex County, six in Norfolk County, two in Plymouth County and one in Suffolk County.

The youngest person affected was 4 years old and the oldest nearly 70. They include 16 males and 13 females.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com and 413-588-8341.

Investigations editor

Larry Parnass, investigations editor, joined The Eagle in 2016 from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, where he was editor in chief. His freelance work has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant and CommonWealth Magazine.