Editor's Note: Several days after the California Department of Public health said the new variant of COVID-19 had been detected in San Luis Obispo County, the department said further examination was done and the variant had not been found in the area as previously reported.
(ORIGINAL STORY) SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY, Calif. - A new COVID-19 variant has been detected in San Luis Obispo County.
On Sunday, the California Department of Public Health said the L452R variant of COVID-19 had been found in 11 California counties, including San Luis Obispo, Humboldt, Lake, Los Angeles, Mono, Monterey, Orange, Riverside, San Francisco, San Bernardino, and San Diego.
The new COVID variant was identified in other countries and states last year. It has been linked to several large outbreaks in Santa Clara County.
The California Department of Public Health is working with the CDC and local health departments to learn more about this variant and how it spreads.
"It's too soon to know if this variant will spread more rapidly than others, but it certainly reinforces the need for all Californians to wear masks and reduce mixing with people outside their immediate households to help slow the spread of the virus. We also urge anyone who has been exposed to the virus to isolate from others to protect themselves and their loved ones," said Dr. Erica Pan, State Epidemiologist for CDPH, in a press release.
Health experts say it's still too soon to determine how prevalent the new variant is in California, as well as in the U.S. and around the world. The state health department says this is a different variant than the one first detected in the United Kingdom.
"This variant carries three mutations, including L452R, in the spike protein, which the virus uses to attach to and enter cells, and is the target of the two vaccines that are currently available in the United States," said Dr. Charles Chiu, a virologist and professor at UCSF, in a press release. "Now that we know this variant is on the rise in our local communities, we are prioritizing it for study. Researchers at UCSF and elsewhere will now be able to perform the critical laboratory experiments to determine whether or not this virus is more infectious or affects vaccine performance."
The California Department of Public Health says the best defense against COVID-19 remains the same: stay home except for essential activities, wear a mask, limit interactions with people outside your household, continue physical distancing, maintain good hand hygiene, and get the COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available to you.