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Second Case of UK Coronavirus Variant Found in L.A. County

Skyline looking towards Downtown L.A. | Courtesy photo by jesus manz from Pixabay 

Four additional cases of MIS-C identified

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed the second case of COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7, the same variant discovered in the United Kingdom, on Saturday. The specimen, submitted by a clinical facility, was sequenced as part of routine surveillance by the Los Angeles County Public Health Laboratory. Public Health announced the first confirmed case of COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7 on Jan. 16.

Public health officials believe B.1.1.7 and other variants are already spreading in the county and continue to test samples.

The presence of the B.1.1.7 variant in the county means “virus transmission can happen more easily, and residents and businesses must more diligently implement and follow all of the personal protective actions and safety measures put in place to prevent additional cases, hospitalizations, and deaths,” according to the health department.

Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert who advised Joe Biden’s transition team on COVID-19, told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday morning that the U.K. variant could become the dominant strain in the U.S. and cause a new wave of cases. “The surge that is likely to occur with this new variant from England is going to happen in the next six to 14 weeks,” Osterholm said.

“That hurricane is coming,” he warned.

Osterholm’s warning echoes those from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which last month made public sampling data indicating that B.1.1.7 “has the potential to increase the U.S. pandemic trajectory in the coming months,” and that it could become “the predominant variant in March.”

On Jan. 22 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson publicly warned that the variant may be 30% more deadly, though more evidence is still needed. Sir Patrick Vallance, the U.K. government’s chief scientific advisor, stressed that “there’s a lot of uncertainty around these numbers and we need more work to get a precise handle on it, but it obviously is a concern that this has an increase in mortality as well as an increase in transmissibility.”

As parts of California, including L.A. County, relaxed restrictions and resumed outdoor dining, Osterholm also cautioned Americans that “As fast as we’re opening restaurants, we’re likely to be closing them in the near term.”

L.A. County officials also stress vigilance and adherence to public health guidelines despite declining case and hospitalization rates, and the loosening of restrictions.

“Although some restrictions were just lifted in our county, we are still in a very dangerous period in terms of cases, hospitalizations and deaths,” Barbara Ferrer, director of Public Health said in a statement. “Because some sectors have re-opened, it doesn’t mean that the risk for community transmission has gone away; it hasn’t, and each of us needs to make very careful choices about what we do and how we do it. This virus is strong, and we are now concerned about variants and what these will mean in our region.”

Four additional cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) were also reported by L.A. County Public Health. This brings the total cases of MIS-C in L.A. County to 66 children including one death. All 66 children with MIS-C in L.A. County were hospitalized and 44% of the children were treated in the I.C.U. Of the children with MIS-C, 32% were younger than 5 years old, 38% were between the ages of 5 and 11 years old, and 30% were between the ages of 12 and 20 years old. Latino/Latinx children account for nearly 74% of the reported cases.

MIS-C is an inflammatory condition associated with COVID-19, and symptoms include fever that does not go away and inflamed body parts, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. 

On Sunday, Public Health confirmed 124 new deaths and 5,925 new cases of COVID-19. Saturday’s daily test positivity rate was 9.9%, down 15% compared to the previous Saturday. There were 5,328 people with COVID-19 hospitalized, and 27% of them in the I.C.U. 

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