Los Angeles County health officials said Monday that Covid-19 cases and hospital admissions have dropped 77% and 44% over the past month, respectively. This is great news for the hardest-hit area in the country. The question remains, however, whether the new variants of the virus will create another mutation.
“We will be reporting later today that we now have 5 cases linked to the variant in the UK,” Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Monday. That’s not much, but the amount of genetic testing in the province to identify new variants is very small compared to the number of Covid tests being delivered.
“There is no way we don’t have a good amount of [that] The variable rolling around here, ”Ferrer said. The UK mutant strain is believed to be 30-50% more transmissible. According to a new report, the British variant doubles its spread between specific cases every 9-10 days.
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As for the South African species, it is also more transmissible and possibly vaccine resistant, “I suppose it is there,” Ferrer said. Then the real bomb was dropped.
“At least 50% of our samples showed the West Coast variant,” Ferrer said, before hedging that “more research is needed.”
Last week, the top California health official revealed that more than 1,000 cases of the West Coast variant had been detected in the state. That number had risen to 1,200, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Monday. That’s a 20% increase in less than a week.
These increases may make the effort to vaccinate Los Angeles residents even more important. The region has significantly boosted its vaccination infrastructure in the past few weeks, but a bottleneck in vaccine supply is hampering these efforts.
Newsom revealed on Monday that 1.2 million vaccine doses are scheduled to arrive in the state this week. But only 540,000 of these will be the first doses. “We need to see more doses coming into the state to keep these sites running,” Newsom said.
Ferrer said the Los Angeles situation is more desperate. During the remainder of this week at the county vaccination sites, she said, “All we can provide is the dates for the second dose.” In a county of 10 million people with new variants circulating, that’s a problem
The new strains dubbed B.1.429 and B.1.427, a West Coast variant or sometimes called CAL.20C, remain a mystery.
Dr Charles Chiu, a virologist and professor of laboratory medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, who, in coordination with state authorities, has performed genetic sequencing of test samples to identify new variants, said early indications are that CAL.20C may be less susceptible to approved vaccines. Currently, however, further investigation is needed.
Dr. Qiu said: “This variant carries three mutations, including L452R, in the spike protein, which the virus uses to bind and enter cells, and it is the target of the two vaccines currently available in the United States.” Thus, the spiky protein mutation could interfere with vaccine efficacy. Given the importance of high protein, L452R is another name sometimes used for West Coast variants.
When asked about vaccine resistance, Galli is more cautious saying that he is “unclear about its precise role in making people sicker or its effect on things like vaccine.”
West Coast variants have also been detected in Los Angeles, Mono, Monterey, Orange, Riverside, San Francisco, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Humboldt and Lake counties. Because the genetic sequence is rare, it is not currently known how common L452 is statewide, nationally or globally.
Dr Qiu said the L452R has grown from about 3.8% of the samples he tested in late November 2020 through early December to more than 25.2% in late December through early January 2021.
Eric Vail, director of molecular pathology at Cedars-Sinai, told The New York Times that the CAL.20C may have played a role in the increase in cases that overwhelmed Southern California hospitals earlier this month. “I am absolutely confident that this is a more contagious strain of the virus,” said Dr. Phil.
Scientists are concerned about L452R because it may help coronaviruses attach to and infect human cells more easily.
Dr. Phil and other researchers in the state say that the L452 mutations they discovered were always in tandem with four other specific mutations. This unchanged arrangement was a strong sign of a single breed that was “native” to California.
Rice researchers discovered CAL.20C in July. As far as limited genetic testing can discover, the variant did not appear in Southern California again until October. At the time, it did not appear to be widespread.
However, by December, 36% of virus samples from Cedars-Sinai patients were identified as CAL2.0C. The variant also accounts for nearly a quarter of all samples from Southern California. But then again, the number of samples tested is very small compared to the total number of daily Covid tests.
At the start of January, the country had performed more than 30 million Covid-19 tests. Of those tens of millions, only about 7,000 have been analyzed genetically, according to the San Jose Mercury News. It must be said that the nation as a whole is woefully behind in such analyzes. But California – and specifically Los Angeles – is the epicenter of the epidemic worldwide. The need here is more urgent. But such tests are very expensive.
Los Angeles County analyzes genomes only a few dozen test samples every day, so it’s hard to tell. That’s out of an average of 81,000 tests per day. (Health officials say they mark the most suspicious samples for genomic screening, so that appears to increase the likelihood that mutations will be detected.)