Scientists are testing to determine if the more contagious strain of the Chinese coronavirus, hailing from the United Kingdom, has spread to Los Angeles County amid a surge in cases.
Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer announced that officials have “begun to do gene sequencing to test virus samples collected in LA County, but it will take about a week to finish the process,” Syracuse reported.
While she told the Los Angeles Times that the state Department of Public Health had not indicated it had found this particular strain, she noted that researchers “have to know what” they are looking for, specifically.
“So I think everyone at this point that’s seeing these kinds of surges is obviously looking to see, ‘Do we have that particular variant?’” she said.
Officials have extended “Tier 4” lockdowns in sections of the U.K. following reports of a more contagious mutation of the Wuhan virus. However, the strain does not necessarily have a worse effect on those who contract it, according to a memo from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on Thursday.
“Scientists are working to learn more about this variant to better understand how easily it might be transmitted and whether currently authorized vaccines will protect people against it,” the memo read.
“At this time, there is no evidence that this variant causes more severe illness or increased risk of death or that available vaccines will not be as effective,” it added.
“Alas, when the facts change, you have to change your approach,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last week, adding that the “speed of transmission” with this strain was “not possible to ignore.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is among U.S. leaders who openly called for the Trump administration to take action, restricting travel from the U.K.
“The United States has a number of flights coming in from the UK each day and we have done absolutely nothing. To me, this is reprehensible because this is what happened in the spring,” Cuomo, who referred to the virus as the “European virus” in the past, said.
“It’s high time the federal government takes swift action, because today that variant is getting on a plane and landing in JFK, and all it takes is one person,” he added.
“Follow it carefully, but don’t overreact to it,” he said during an interview with CNN on Monday.
Los Angeles County, which has remained under some of the strictest lockdowns in the country throughout the pandemic, reported 13,678 new cases of the virus on Christmas Eve.
Earlier this month, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti described the virus as the “greatest threat to life in Los Angeles that we have ever faced.”