The coronavirus UK variant has been detected in Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange and now Riverside County.
There is currently just one confirmed UK variant case in Riverside County and health officials say it was reported over the weekend in Western Riverside County.
“It was inevitable we would see this strain in Riverside County, and in our large population we will probably see others,” said Dr Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County public health officer. “But it doesn’t change the need for people to take precautions with facial coverings, social distancing and good hygiene. It works for other things and it works for this, too.”
“We’re monitoring the research on how the current COVID-19 vaccines respond to this strain and others,” said Dr Kaiser. “As it stands now, if you’re eligible for the shot, you should get it.”
As of Wednesday, there have been 159 confirmed cases of the UK variant detected in California, including eight in Los Angeles County. Newsom said there are 1,203 confirmed cases of two West Coast variants, but to date, there are no cases of another variant discovered in Brazil.
Health officials have conceded that the variant is likely more widespread in the area but just hasn’t been widely reported due to the time-consuming genomics process needed to identify it.
Newsom said the state operated 30 genomics labs, and they have examined more than 12,000 case specimens.
The emergence of variants is being closely watched by health officials, particularly amid the rollout of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that so far are believed to be effective against all the new strains of the virus. But officials in South Africa this week halted the rollout of AstraZeneca vaccines – – which are not yet being used in the United States — because the vaccinations were found in a clinical trial not to be effective in slowing spread of the South African variant.
While the variants aren’t believed to be any more deadly than the original virus, the speed at which they can spread raises concern that they could more easily reach people more susceptible to severe illness if they are infected.