SAN DIEGO (CNS) – San Diego County public health officials have reported three additional cases of a new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus first discovered in the United Kingdom.
The new cases of the variant, known as B.1.1.7, bring the total to four so far in San Diego County. The variant was first found in the United States on Tuesday in Colorado. The first San Diego case is in a man in his 30s with no history of travel who first became symptomatic Dec. 27 and tested positive Dec. 29. He has been hospitalized and contact tracing is underway.
The additional three cases, reported by county health officials Thursday, were found in two men in their 40s and one in his 50s. Contact tracing shows two men did not travel outside of the county while the third case has yet to be fully interviewed. None of the men had any known interaction with each other or the other confirmed case.
The three newly confirmed variant cases were initially identified by Helix during diagnostic testing, then confirmed by whole genome sequencing by Scripps Research. The four individuals who have tested positive for the B.1.1.7. strain live in La Mesa, Mission Beach, Otay Mesa and the Carmel Mountain/Rancho Bernardo area.
Officials now believe that the new strain is widespread in the community
“We believe that many more cases of the B. 1.1.7. strain will be confirmed in the coming days and weeks,” said Dr. Eric McDonald, medical director of the County Epidemiology and Immunizations Services branch. “This strain of the virus has been reported to be spread more easily in the UK and so it is therefore crucial that now, more than ever before in this pandemic, we follow the public health orders and keep each other safe.”
The county reported 3,083 new COVID-19 infections and a record 62 deaths due to the virus Thursday, as they urged San Diegans to not gather in non-household groups for New Year’s celebrations.
Those cases marked the 31st consecutive day with more than 1,000 new infections, and the 22nd overall with more than 2,000 new cases. It is the sixth time the 3,000 case mark has been crossed.
San Diego County’s cumulative totals are now 155,595 cases and 1,534 deaths.
Another 43 people with coronavirus were hospitalized Thursday and another three sent to intensive care units. The 1,580 people hospitalized with the virus are a record and the 386 in the ICU with coronavirus are the fourth- most since the pandemic began.
The county is reporting 18% of its ICU beds remain available, but staffing limitations may make that a considerably smaller portion.
Regional hospitals have reported a 120% increase in the number of patients with COVID-19 hospitalized and a 91% increase in the number of patients sent to ICUs in the same time frame.
A total of 12 community outbreaks were confirmed Thursday. There have been 59 community outbreaks confirmed in the last seven days with 254 cases associated with those outbreaks. A community setting outbreak is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases in a setting and in people of different households over the past 14 days.
Of the 28,183 tests reported Thursday, 11% tested positive. The 14-day average is 11%.