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California tops 50,000 COVID-19 deaths amid fears of new options

California has exceeded 50,000 deaths from COVID-19, after Los Angeles County reported a lag of more than 800 deaths during the fall-winter jump.

The number comes as daily coronavirus cases and COVID-19 deaths have dropped significantly in recent weeks, although some scientists remain concerned about the potential spread of mutant variants that are more contagious and possibly more deadly. While California has the highest number of COVID-19 deaths from any state in the country, it ranks 32nd among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in terms of COVID-1

9 mortality per capita.

The accumulation of 806 new deaths from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County, mostly in December and January, was discovered after extensive checks on death records, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said on Wednesday.

“It was a period, as you all know, when there were many deaths in the county. And not everyone was reported [the Department of] Public health due to the volume of records. “

The county typically identifies deaths from COVID-19 through daily reports from health care providers. But the county is also auditing the causes of death listed in the death certificates, where an additional 806 were found.

“The 806 deaths reported reflect those COVID-related deaths that occurred during the wave that were not reported [the Department of] Public health through the death report form, but they were subsequently identified through the review of the death certificate, and we always do these reviews, ”Ferrer said.

The additional 806 deaths accounted for about 8% of the new total number of COVID-19 deaths in Los Angeles County in December and January, she added.

“It is touching to report this large number of additional deaths related to COVID-19. And it’s a devastating reminder of the terrible effects of the winter tide on so many families in the county, “Ferrer said.

The news of the grim records came when officials investigated a group of four USC coronavirus cases, two of which were confirmed as the more contagious and potentially deadly variant first identified in the UK, B.1.1.7.

The other two cases are still awaiting laboratory confirmation, Ferrer said.

“All of these cases were discovered as part of a routine USC testing and monitoring program,” she said Wednesday. “People are doing well and are isolated. Close contacts have been established, they have been notified and they are in quarantine. “

Research shows that currently available vaccines against COVID-19 are effective against the British version.

“But as the supply of vaccines is still very limited, local transmission of the potentially more infectious variant in the UK underscores the need for each of our residents to continue to use every tool we have to prevent transmission,” Ferrer said. “Including not meeting people you don’t live with, and distancing and masking when you’re out of your home and around others. ”

There are currently 18 confirmed cases of the UK version in LA County; more than 200 in California and more than 1,800 nationwide, with 45 states reporting cases.

Another variant of concern, first identified in South Africa, B.1.351, was not identified in Los Angeles County, but was identified in the Gulf area, which has the only two confirmed cases in California – one in Santa Clara County and others in Alameda County. The South African version has been reported in 46 cases across the country in 14 countries.

A variant associated with the South African strain, P.1, first identified in Brazil, was not identified in California, but was identified in four countries by five people. But in a sample from the Gulf region, another Brazilian strain was identified, P.2.

This week, researchers at UC San Francisco unveiled new information about California’s own variant, called B.1.427 / B.1.429, which includes an alarming mutation called L452R.

A new study strongly suggests that the coronavirus strain, which is now dominant in California, not only spreads more easily than its predecessors, but also has the ability to avoid antibodies generated by COVID-19 vaccines or a previous infection. It is also associated with more severe illness and death.

These attributes worry some scientists that the domestic variant could reverse California’s recent advances in reducing new infections – especially if it can replace mutations with other threatening strains. Experts say he stresses the need to vaccinate people as soon as possible and continue to wear masks, maintain social distance and follow other public health precautions as the country begins to open up more.

By the end of next month, the native strain B.1.427 / B.1.429 is likely to account for 90% of coronavirus infections in the country, he said. Dr. Charles Chiu, a researcher in infectious diseases and a physician at the University of San Francisco.

Ferrer said 40% to 50% of coronavirus samples sequenced at the Los Angeles County Public Health Laboratory contained the L452R mutation.

Despite caution over options, officials continued to offer an optimistic message amid news that a third vaccine, manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, could be approved for emergency use by the US Food and Drug Administration within days.

And additional vaccines arrived in Los Angeles County this week after a slowdown in weather-related spread.

“Although we still don’t have clarity on the supply chain, in the next week or two simple math shows that we need to see more and more deliveries in the coming weeks. So, get ready, “El Mayor Garcetti said on Wednesday. “Hope is literally on the horizon.”

On March 1, education and child care workers, food and agriculture officials, law enforcement and other emergency services who are not yet eligible for the vaccine may begin receiving photos in Los Angeles County. Eligible people can sign up for next week’s appointments.

Times staff writer Kevin Rector contributed to this report.

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