The total number of COVID-19 infections in Los Angeles County since the outbreak started has just topped one million, and health officials have now also reported the county's first confirmed case of an even more-contagious strain of the virus that first appeared in the United Kingdom late last year.
The individual is a male who traveled to Oregon, where he is currently isolating. The variant was confirmed by Quest Laboratories in Washington state. Although it is the first confirmed case of the variant in Los Angeles County, public health officials here believe that the new, more contagious strain is already spreading in the community, and are continuing to test samples.
“The presence of the U.K. variant in Los Angeles County is troubling, as our health care system is already severely strained with more than 7,500 people currently hospitalized,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.
Even though that strain isn't more dangerous than the original one to a person who catches it, there's a lot of worry that because it spreads much faster, and it could make a lot more people sick – which could lead to another spike in virus deaths.
But all is not lost, according to health officials, the new coronavirus variant does respond to the current vaccines. And ER doctor Michael Daignault of the Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank tells CBS-2, that's an extra incentive to speed-up vaccination efforts.
New virus cases in L.A. County seemed to have leveled off a bit lately, but more than 14,000 were still confirmed during the latest one-day reporting period along with 253 new deaths. And Orange County reported 43 additional deaths and more than 3,400 new infections.
City News Service contributed to this story.