More contagious COVID variant detected in California

Provided by City News Service

A new, more contagious variant of COVID-19 that
was first detected in the United Kingdom has been found in San Diego County,
but while it hasn’t been found in Los Angeles County, it is likely already
present.  

The variant — which is no more dangerous than the original virus but
is much more easily transmitted from person to person — was first confirmed in
the United States Tuesday in Colorado.  

Gov. Gavin Newsom made the disclosure about a California case during
an online conversation with Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National
Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He did not offer any other
details, but San Diego County health officials confirmed the variant known as
B.1.1.7 was found in a man in his 30s with no history of travel. The man has
not been hospitalized.  

Fauci said he was not surprised to hear the variant was found in
California, saying, “we likely will be seeing reports from other states.”  

“I don’t think Californians should feel this is something odd,”
Fauci said. “This is something expected.”  

Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Monday
local health officials had tested a limited number of samples from COVID-
positive patients, and “we have not found any evidence of the variant in that
first group of tests that we ran.” She confirmed that again Wednesday, saying
there has still been no detection of the variant.  

Ferrer insisted Monday, however, that it’s likely the variant is
already present in the county.  

“… For all of us in public health, because there is so much spread
right now and so many people who are infected — and we’re not running all of
the samples through this sort of gene sequencing — it would be impossible for
us to say with all certainty that the variant isn’t here,” she said. “And
almost all of us, I think, agree that there’s a high probability that the
variant is here, although at this point it doesn’t appear to be dominant,
because if it was you might see it initially in the samples that are being run.  

But Ferrer said even if the variant is in the county, it wouldn’t
change the infection-control measures that are already in place.  

“I think whether the variant is here or it isn’t here, the steps we
need to take are exactly the same,” she said. “Whether the variant is
slightly more infectious than the virus as we’re experiencing it now in the
predominant strain we’re seeing here in L.A. County, the steps to take are the
same. And the urgency is the same.  

“There is a lot of community spread, and that makes it easier for
this virus to keep spreading,” Ferrer said. “So we’re all going to have to do
everything we know how to do to contain the virus.”

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