U.K. COVID-19 variant sparking new concerns in California

www.latimes.com
7 min read
fairly difficult
Officials predict the B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the U.K., will become the dominant coronavirus strain nationwide by the end of March.
Even as coronavirus cases are going down, officials are expressing growing concern about the dominance of a variant first identified in Britain that is believed to be 50% more transmissible than the conventional variety.

Officials predict the B.1.1.7 variant will become the dominant coronavirus nationwide by the end of March. There are at least 693 cases in 33 states, with the highest numbers in Florida (201) and California (153).

The U.K. variant has been identified in San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Alameda, San Mateo and Yolo counties.

L.A. County officials Monday confirmed the fourth and fifth cases of the B.1.1.7 variant. Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said it's clear that there's a fair number of mutant strains circulating in L.A. County.

If we have a more infectious virus, Ferrer said, "it just makes it easier for people to get infected ... The variants are concerning, because if we let our guard down, the more infectious strains can become dominant. And that just makes it a lot easier for this virus to spread."

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Orange County on Monday confirmed its first case of the U.K. variant in a resident who reported no international travel history, "which means there are likely more cases in OC," the Health Care Agency tweeted. Officials on Monday also confirmed the first case of the U.K. variant in the Sacramento region — in Yolo County, west of Sacramento — after an individual was determined to have the strain and "may have acquired the variant through travel outside the community," according to a statement issued by UC Davis and the city of Davis.

At least 138 cases of the U.K. variant have been confirmed in San Diego County, with 50 probable cases there. A UC San Diego scientist has warned government officials that the U.K. strain is so transmissible that its spread — combined with the rejection of mask use and physical distancing guidelines, as occurred across California in the fall — could result in an even worse…
Rong-Gong Lin II, Luke Money
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