During his Monday news conference, California Governor Gavin Newsom said that the state was monitoring a new, potentially more infectious strain of Covid-19. British officials have indicated that the variant on the virus could be up to 70% more transmissible.
“We haven’t seen anything as it relates to this strain yet. No evidence yet,” he said, before noting that the state has been genetically testing samples for the new strain via the SARS-CoV-2 Whole Genome Sequencing initiative.
The concern is over a newly-mutated form of the virus being reported in the U.K. That country’s prime minister Boris Johnson ordered a complete lockdown of London and nearby areas this weekend to try and contain the new variant. Canada, Austria, Ireland, France, Germany and the Netherlands are among the many countries that have banned travel from the U.K.
A similar mutation of the virus had been discovered in South Africa. It shares one of the mutations seen in the British variant, according to scientists. That virus has been found in up to 90 percent of the genetic sequences that have been analyzed in South Africa since mid-November, according to the New York Times.
Viruses regularly mutate. It’s one of the reasons there is a different form of the flu vaccine every winter. Sometimes the variations are significant, sometimes they are virtually unnoticed. In the 1918 flu pandemic, the virus actually became less deadly by its third wave in the U.S..
The newly-identified mutation seems neither more or less deadly, according to medical experts. They also say the vaccines that have been developed will likely retain their effectiveness against it. But there are concerns about its infectiousness.
According to NBC News, the new strain has already moved outside Britain, being detected in Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium and Iceland.
“I hope the federal government takes action in this space. They should,” said Newsom. “We’ve seen Canada, we’ve seen so many other jurisdictions around the world that have…In the absence of that, we’ll be pursuing different strategies on testing and quarantine and those have been activated in terms of those conversations. As soon as I have more information, I’ll share that information with you.”
California Health and Human Services director Mark Ghaly explained of the mutation: “It’s a little bit more sticky than the virus that we’ve been used to.” The new mutated virus seems to bind a little tighter and more easily enter the cell,” he said.
“We want to make sure that, if we do see this strain that we’re able to react very quickly,” said Ghaly. “Frankly, we’re concerned because of the unknowns.”
“Frankly, we’re concerned because of the unknowns,” he continued. “We’re concerned that we aren’t sure how this impacts the broadscale efforts to contain and mitigate the virus as it exists now.
“We’re looking at making some recommendations at further monitoring people that come in from these infected areas,” said Newsom.
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