The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed five additional cases of COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7., also known as the U.K. variant, totaling eight cases, on Tuesday. The B.1.1.7 variant is more easily transmissible.
The news preceded an announcement by Governor Gavin Newsom Wednesday that the first case of B.1.351, also known as the South African coronavirus variant, has been identified in Alameda and Santa Clara counties.
Despite recent decreases in the current COVID-19 surge of cases and hospitalizations, transmission remains widespread in the county. On Tuesday, officials confirmed 227 new deaths and 3,353 cases of COVID-19. There are 4,079 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized, 29% in the I.C.U.
Officials worry that travel over the upcoming Lunar New Year, Valentine’s Day, and Presidents Day holidays will lead to another surge like the one experienced after Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings and travel. “Additionally, the risk may be greater with the prevalence of the more easily transmissible B.1.1.7 variant,” the health department said in a statement.
“We are only weeks away from reducing transmission in L.A. County to a level where elementary schools will be allowed by the state to offer in-class instruction, provided they adhere to all State and County directives,” said Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health. “Schools that decide to open will need to require masking, distancing and routine testing. Please do your part to continue to slow the spread so that our recovery journey does not suffer a setback.”
Public Health advises against non-essential travel and gatherings with people not from the same household. “Shared transportation, including travel by air, bus, or rail, can not only put travelers at risk but also all members of the community if infected travelers spread COVID-19 to others after returning to Los Angeles County,” the department cautioned.
A travel advisory remains in effect for L.A. County. Anyone who is arriving to Los Angeles County must self-quarantine for 10 days.