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Fear of the COVID variant is growing; LA County is considering more closures

Los Angeles County and the rest of the country are vying to vaccinate as many people as possible against the coronavirus before a variant that is considered even more contagious is approved.

These concerns were highlighted in a report released Friday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which states that the new modeling shows that the option “has the potential to increase the trajectory of the US pandemic in the coming months,” with the forecast showing “Fast growth in early 2021

, becoming the predominant option in March. “

The new strain, first identified in the UK, weighs heavily on Los Angeles County public health officials as they assess potential new health orders aimed at halting the spread of the disease.

Settings that can be further explored include outdoor gyms, which are allowed to open with a capacity of 50%, and indoor malls and retail outlets, which need to be opened with only a 20% capacity, said the mayor of El Eric. Garseti on Thursday night.

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said this week that she was also worried for the variant – which, although not yet officially opened in Los Angeles County, has already been identified in San Diego and San Bernardino counties.

Ferrer said the CDC called on public health officials across the country to do everything possible to prevent transmission, “so that this option does not establish itself as the most dominant form of the virus, which circulates for as long as possible.”

“What we’re actually trying to do here is really something that gives us the opportunity to actually get as many people as possible before that option holds up,” Ferrer said. “This means that we have to go back to the drawing board and look at everything we do, and really consider how in a very short period of time we can get more control over the jump, more ability to actually slow down the pace of transmission. ? “

Scientists believe that a variant known as B.1.1.7 is less likely to be fatal or worsen people once they become infected. There is also no evidence that newly developed coronavirus vaccines will not be effective against it.

But because the variant is thought to be easier to transmit, it is considered particularly dangerous. Health officials have long warned of the cascading effect of the coronavirus: The more people become infected, the more people will have to be hospitalized and the more people will die.

Current expert forecasts show that if left unchecked, the UK option could dominate locally until March, according to Ferrer.

“Now is our time to try to control the surge – before the option is widespread,” she said.

Enhanced transmission, warns the latest CDC report, “could threaten strained health resources, require expanded and stricter implementation of public health strategies and increase the percentage of population immunity needed to fight the pandemic.”

“Increased transmissibility of Option B.1.1.7 requires strict implementation of public health strategies to reduce transmission and reduce the potential impact … buying critical time to increase vaccination coverage,” the report said. “CDC modeling data show that universal use and increased compliance with mitigation and vaccination measures are crucial to significantly reduce the number of new cases and deaths in the coming months.”

Although “there is no difference in clinical outcomes” when it comes to the option, the CDC report notes a sobering reality: “Higher transmission rates will lead to more cases, increasing the number of people in need of clinical care, exacerbating the burden on the already strained health care system and leading to more deaths. “

According to the CDC, the option is expected to appear for the first time in the UK in September.

So far, at least 38 cases have been identified in California, among most of all states. At least 22 have been identified in Florida, and cases have been confirmed in Colorado, Texas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Georgia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut.

“Absolutely, that’s our concern,” Dr Mark Galli, California’s health and human services minister, told a briefing Tuesday.

On the one hand, the presence of the option illustrates why activities outside the home pose a higher risk now than months or even weeks ago.

“We are worried that if it takes off, if it gets wider, we will even see [more] increased transmission compared to what we are now, “Gally said. “The transmission rate will be significantly more challenging if we see a wider distribution of this UK or this option B.1.1.7.”

The sooner vaccines can get into the hands of Californians, Gally added, the less impact the option will have in California, “but in the short term, [we are] very concerned about this. “

Earlier, Ghaly described the new variant as “slightly more sticky than the COVID virus we see so far.”

In other words, the option seems to have a much easier time sticking to a human cell so that it can be abducted, replicated, and spread throughout the body.

Option B.1.1.7 represents 20% of new infections in the South East of England in November.

The cases identified so far in San Bernardino and San Diego counties come from at least 20 different households that do not appear particularly connected, with no clear link to overseas travel, said Dr. George Rutherford, an epidemiologist and infectious disease expert at UC San Francisco.

“All of this suggests that this option is much more widespread than we are currently finding,” Rutherford told a town hall meeting last week.

The growing study confirms the early suspicions of some scientists: The variant is a super spreader capable of expanding the pandemic and replacing the less transmissible strains of the virus.

Once it settles in the United States – prospective experts believe it is inevitable – its failure will require public health measures, stricter than previously adopted, faster introduction of vaccines and significantly increased readiness among residents to be immunized.

“We’re losing the race against the coronavirus – it infects people much faster than we can get a vaccine in people’s hands, and it overcomes our social distancing,” said University of Florida biologist Derek Cummings, an expert on emerging pathogens. “Now there is this option that will make the race even more difficult.”

No further restrictions have yet been decided under the LA County Residence Order.

“I will support what [the Department of] “Public health recommends and our public health experts recommend,” Garchetti said Thursday night.

He said further closure may not be necessary if the pandemic appears to be stabilizing, “but the moment it rises, as we saw in December – at any rate – absolutely, it’s something we can’t we maintain and most importantly, our hospitals cannot. “

Last week, most areas of Los Angeles County had at least one day to report zero or one available intensive care bed, including downtown Los Angeles, Antelope Valley, San Fernando Valley, San Gabriel Valley, and southeastern LA. The West Side reports three intensive care beds, and the South Bay and Long Beach regions report just six.

Los Angeles County reached another milestone on Thursday, officially surpassing 13,000 local deaths from COVID-19

Cumulatively, the county has reported 13,244 deaths and 976,075 coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

More than 2,000 COVID-19 deaths in the county have been reported in the last nine days alone.

Times staff writer Melissa Healy contributed to this report.

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