Public Health Announces First Confirmed Case of U.K. Variant as Los Angeles confirmed 253 new deaths

 


The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) has confirmed the first case of COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7, the same variant discovered in the United Kingdom (U.K.), in an individual who recently spent time in Los Angeles County. The individual is a male who traveled to Oregon, where he is currently isolating. The variant was confirmed by Quest Laboratories in Washington state.


Today, Public Health (Public Health) has confirmed 253 new deaths and 14,669 new cases of confirmed COVID-19. To date, Public Health has identified 1,003,923 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County and a total of 13,741 deaths. 


Although this is the first confirmed case of the U.K. variant in Los Angeles County, Public Health believes that it is already spreading in the community. Public Health is continuing to test samples. Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time. Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear. Other times, new variants emerge and persist. Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been documented in the United States and globally during this pandemic.


In the U.K., the variant B.1.1.7 emerged with an unusually large number of mutations. The variant spreads more easily and quickly than other variants. Currently, there is no evidence that it causes more severe illness or increased risk of death. This variant was first detected in September 2020 and is now highly prevalent in London and Southeast England. It has since been detected in numerous countries around the world, including the United States and Canada. The Centers for Disease Control conducts routine analysis of SARS-CoV-2 genetic sequence data to support public health response. The DPH lab is also regularly analyzing specimens for variants, including the U.K. variant, and, to date, has not identified other cases linked to this specific variant.


Presence of the U.K. variant in Los Angeles County means virus transmission can happen more easily and residents must more diligently follow the safety measures put in place to prevent additional cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. This includes wearing a face covering properly over your nose and mouth, physically distancing, and not gathering with people from outside your household. With community transmission at an all-time high, staying home as much as possible is the best protection. The same strategies that we’ve been using to help slow COVID-19 will only be effective in slowing spread of the U.K. variant strain of COVID-19 if they are used by everyone all of the time.


Individuals infected with the U.K. variant will test positive for COVID-19 with current SARS-CoV-2 tests. However, to distinguish the variant strain from the traditional strain, laboratories can perform look for certain gene patterns and report to the local public health department for confirmation.


“To the many families who are grieving the tragic loss of a loved one to COVID-19, we mourn with you and wish you healing and peace in the days and months ahead,” said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health. “The presence of the U.K. variant in Los Angeles County is troubling, as our healthcare system is already severely strained with more than 7,500 people currently hospitalized. Our community is bearing the brunt of the winter surge, experiencing huge numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths, five-times what we experienced over the summer. This more contagious variant makes it easier for infections to spread at worksites, at stores, and in our homes. We are in the midst of a public health emergency so please do everything you can to protect yourselves and those you love. If you are required to work outside your home, make sure that your workplace adheres to all the mandatory safety directives; there should be no crowding anywhere, protective gear and face coverings provided as required, and infection control measures fully implemented. For those who can, this is the time to stay away from all non-household members, and, when you must be around others, to always keep your distance and wear a face covering. Wash your hands every hour and wipe down frequently touched surfaces multiple times a day. We need to use the tools at hand to keep each other from becoming infected.”


The Board of Supervisors and Public Health meet regularly to discuss the response to COVID-19 in L.A. County. At this time, the current Safer at Home Health Officer Order (HOO) remains in effect with no changes. Public Health teams continue inspecting establishments and ensuring compliance with safety measures in the HOO including metering and occupancy requirements.


There are currently 7,597 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19, and 22% of these people are in the ICU.


Of the 238 deaths reported today (not including Long Beach), 81 people that passed away were over the age of 80 years old, 92 people who died were between the ages of 65 and 79 years old, 49 people who died were between the ages of 50 and 64 years old, 12 people who died were between the ages of 30 and 49 years old and four people that died was between the ages of 18 and 29 years old. Of the deaths reported today, 198 deaths were people with underlying health conditions, including 66 people who were over the age of 80 years old, 81 people who were between the ages of 65 and 79 years old, 39 people between the ages of 50 and 64 years old, nine people between the ages of 30 and 49 years old and three people between the ages of 18 and 29 years old. Fourteen deaths were reported by the city of Long Beach and one death reported by the city of Pasadena.


Of those who died, information about race and ethnicity is available for 12,895 people; 52% of deaths occurred among Latino/Latinx residents, 24% among White residents, 14% among Asian residents, 9% among African American/Black residents, less than 1% among Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander residents and 2% among residents identifying with other races. Upon further investigation, 315 cases and three deaths reported earlier were not L.A. County residents.


Testing results are available for more than 5,190,051 individuals with 18% of all people testing positive. Upon further investigation, 674 cases and one death reported earlier were not L.A. County residents.

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