Over the past week, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health analyzed 73 specimens and found that 25 cases, 34%, were of the California variant, identified as B.1.427 or 429, and 21 cases, or 29%, were of the U.K. mutation, B.1.1.7.
“This signifies that 63% of the variant sequences this past week are what we call ‘variants of concern’ because they have the probability of increased transmissibility and potentially more severe disease,” said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.
The California variant accounted for more than 50% of cases during the winter surge, she said, and evidence suggests that is more infectious. “If that’s the variant that’s still in some ways dominating or still circulating in very high numbers here in L.A. County, it would be very easy for us to get back to a situation where cases go up,” she cautioned.
Though L.A. County has yet to identify cases of the South African or Brazilian P.1 variants, officials did detect eight cases of the New York mutation and one case of Brazilian P.2. While these are only considered “variants of interest,” their presence indicates transmission of mutated viruses from across the globe.
Ferrer emphasized that specimens were not chosen in a scientifically random sample so results must be interpreted carefully.
“I think it’s probably very safe to say there are more variants circulating now than there were earlier in the year,” she said. “That is what everybody’s worried about. If we keep our case numbers down, we keep transmission of variants down as well.”
Ferrer also warned about gathering for upcoming holidays.
“I know there are many reasons to gather coming up, whether it is Passover, Ramadan, March Madness, or you would just like to enjoy the beautiful weather with friends. As we saw in the winter, failing to follow sensible public health directives can have disastrous consequences. I ask each of you to continue keeping yourself, your friends, and your family members safe,” she said.