A mutated and more contagious strain of coronavirus that stirred deep concern when it emerged in the United Kingdom has arrived in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday.
San Diego County officials said tests showed a 30-year-old resident contracted the strain in California’s first confirmed case of the variant, one day after the sequence was discovered on American soil for the first time in Colorado.
The Southern California man had not traveled recently, officials said — a sign that despite efforts to contain the mutation in Europe, it may already be spreading locally.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the news during a virtual meeting with Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
There are no signs that the mutant strain causes more severe cases of the illness, Fauci and other contagious disease experts say, and early indications are that it can be combatted with the emerging array of vaccines.
But a more transmissible strain could lead to more infections and deaths as the virus reaches those who are most vulnerable to it.
And a surge in COVID-19 patients could worsen the strain on an already taxed medical system, making it more likely that people die from the virus if overwhelmed hospitals can’t provide the care patients need.
The precautions people should take to prevent the spread of the latest strain are the same ones officials have recommended for months in the fight against coronavirus — wearing a face covering and avoiding contact with people from outside your household.
“If we continue to do those things — no matter how transmissible this virus is — it’s going to lose,” said John Swartzberg, clinical professor emeritus of infectious diseases and vaccinology at Berkeley Public Health. “Don’t change a thing, just do what you should be doing all along.”
Fauci said mutations and new strains of the virus are to be expected during a pandemic.
“I’m not surprised that you have a case and likely more cases in California … “
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