New COVID variant in California tied to multiple outbreaks

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A rendering of the coronavirus (Getty Images).

(NEXSTAR) – A new COVID-19 variant identified in California is being tied to multiple outbreaks, public health officials said Sunday.

The variant, called L452R, is distinct from those previously identified in the U.K., Brazil and South Africa.

According to public health officials, L452R was identified in “several large outbreaks” in Santa Clara County, home to San Jose and Silicon Valley.

“The fact that this variant was identified in several large outbreaks in our county is a red flag and must be investigated further,” said Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody in a press release. “This virus continues to mutate and adapt, and we cannot let down our guard.  This news underscores the need for everyone to follow all prevention measures and get vaccinated as soon as they are offered the vaccine.”

It’s not yet known if the variant is more contagious than other strains of COVID-19, though its prevalence in multiple outbreaks is worrisome to officials.

L452R has been detected in multiple counties across California, including Humboldt, Lake, Los Angeles, Mono, Monterey, Orange, Riverside, San Francisco, San Bernardino, San Diego and San Luis Obispo.

It is “too soon” to know how prevalent the variant is nationally and globally “because genomic sequencing is not done equally across the state or country.”

Dr. Cody said the state is working with the CDC to learn more about the strain.

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a highly contagious COVID-19 variant first reported in the U.K. will likely become the predominant strain in the U.S. by March.

The CDC warned that the strain, called B.1.1.7, could lead to a spike in cases across the U.S. It has already been detected in ten states. 

That strain has been circulating in the U.K. since September.

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