Public health officials in Los Angeles County have begun testing patients for a new strain of the coronavirus that’s being reported in the United Kingdom and Europe. According to the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said that a local laboratory is doing gene sequencing to test virus samples collected in L.A. County, but it will take about a week to finish the process.
Officials are concerned that if the new strain is already present in LA County, it may account for some of the exponential growth in COVID-19 since Thanksgiving. The mutation was first reported in Britain, which has put tighter lockdown rules in place over the past week, but has also been reported in France. It is said to be far more contagious than the original strain of the virus, but has not been found to be more deadly.
“When I spoke with the state Department of Public Health, they indicated that they’ve been looking and didn’t think they had seen” the new strain, Ferrer told the newspaper. “But you have to know what you’re looking for. 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?”‘
It is still unknown whether the new strain of the virus would reduce the effectiveness of the vaccines that are already being distributed.