BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Louisiana governor's office says the state has identified its first case of the COVID-19 variant in a person in the New Orleans area.

Officials say the variant, frequently referred to as the U.K. variant because it’s prevalent in the United Kingdom, spreads more easily than other viral strains currently in U.S. circulation. In a press release, Gov. John Bel Edwards said it was just a matter of time before the new strain reached Louisiana. He urged residents to wear masks, wash their hands and “double down” on other mitigation measures that are effective in reducing the virus' spread.

LDH has confirmed the state’s first case of the more contagious COVID-19 variant that has been identified in the United Kingdom, and it is urgent that everyone double down on the mitigation measures that we know are effective in reducing the spread of the virus. It was always a matter of time before this new strain of the virus would reach Louisiana, which is why our state health experts have been monitoring cases and working with the CDC to prepare. There is no such thing as taking this too seriously. Our case counts and hospitalizations are increasing daily and deaths from COVID have reached an alarming rate. I implore everyone to wear a mask, avoid people and places that are not implementing the mask mandate, social distance, wash your hands frequently and do not go around anyone if you are sick. Even with the vaccines available, controlling our behavior with the measures that are proven to help keep us safe is our best defense against spreading this virus to our family, friends and throughout our communities.