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'Now is not the time to relax' | Contagious UK COVID-19 variant identified in Illinois

"It does appear to make the virus spread more easily. It will infect more people and therefore will get more people sick."

ST. LOUIS — The new COVID-19 variant from the U.K. has made its way to Chicago, Illinois.

On Friday, the Chicago Department of Public Health and Illinois Department of Public Health announced the first case.

"On top of that, there are new variants from Japan, Nigeria, and Brazil that we know a little bit about," Governor J.B. Pritzker said.

Adding to the growing list of mutations, a researcher at SIU Carbondale uncovered a new, dominant variant of U-S COVID-19 virus.

RELATED: New US COVID-19 variant discovered by SIU research team

It's homegrown and widespread.

So with new mutations, what does this mean?

"The virus does not become more deadly. It does not kill people more quickly or more easily or more often. It does appear to make the virus spread more easily. It will infect more people and therefore will get more people sick," WashU Infectious Disease Specialist, Dr. Hilary Babcock said.

She said it looks like the vaccines will protect us against these variants.

But we could expect more mutations.

"We can expect that if it's already in Illinois, it is likely already in Missouri. It's not totally surprising to see these. We know that coronaviruses can do this," Dr. Babcock added.

She says as vaccine supplies are limited and many wait for a shot, we still have ways to protect ourselves.

"Masks work against all of these variants, keeping that six foot distance between you and others. Now is not the time to relax. Now is the time to sort of buckle down and stay strong and hold on," Dr. Babcock tells 5 On Your Side.