West Coast Covid-19 Variant Is Now The Dominant Pressure In California – .
When California Governor Gavin Newsom gave one of his regular Covid-19 updates last Wednesday, he expressed surprise at “something not many people pay attention to”. This “something” is the growth of the so-called West Coast variant of Covid-19.
To their credit, Newsom and its deputies have regularly provided updates on the variant’s growth. The deadline reported that CA Health and Human Services Director Dr. Mark Ghaly reported in early February that the state had discovered 1,000 cases of the West Coast variant, which are in fact two similar variants known as B.1.427 / B.1.429 or CAL2.0C.
The following week, Newsom reported that the number of B.1.427 / B.1.429 cases identified had increased by 20% to 1,200. Last week, when he expressed surprise at the lack of coverage, the governor noted a further 50% increase to 1,834 cases. But those numbers were only a fraction of the actual numbers. Genomic testing is required to identify new variants from samples and they are expensive.
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At the beginning of January, the state had carried out over 30 million Covid-19 tests. Of those tens of millions, only about 7,000 had been genomically analyzed, according to the San Jose Mercury News. For its part, Los Angeles County only genomically analyzes a few dozen test samples a day.
According to Dr. Charles Chiu, a virologist and professor of laboratory medicine at UCSF who authored a new study that was analyzed by the Los Angeles Times, CAL2.0C caused more than half of the cases in the state and could be the source of 90% of the state’s cases by the end of March.
What’s worse, said Dr. Chiu told the New York Times on Tuesday that infections with the variant produce a viral load twice that of other variants. CAL2.0C also seems smarter at evading the immune system. According to Chiu, the cases caused by the variant double every 18 days.
While the more contagious British variant of the virus is spreading across the state, it seems to be doing this more slowly. However, the two variants could be merged.
The British and Californian variants each come with advanced capabilities, and the likelihood that they could circulate in the same population puts the risk of a return to peak infections and deaths, Chiu said. It also opens the door to a “nightmare scenario”: the two viruses meet in a single person, exchange their mutations and create an even more dangerous strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Eric Vail, director of molecular pathology at Cedars-Sinai, told the New York Times in early February that CAL.20C may have played a role in the increase in cases that overwhelmed hospitals in southern California earlier this month. “I am confident this is a more contagious strain of the virus,” said Dr. Vail.
“At least 50% of our samples showed the west coast variant,” said Barbara Ferrer, LA director of public health, last week before confirming that “more research is needed.”
This research could confirm what a small sample appears to mean: the West Coast variant may not only be more communicable, but also more virulent.
Dr. Chiu examined the medical histories of 324 people hospitalized at UCSF and found that those infected with CAL2.0C were more likely to be admitted to intensive care and 11 times more likely to die.
Again, this is a very small sample and requires more research. But last but not least, the indications from Chius’ research call for a significantly increased geological examination of Covid-19 seeds and increased caution when the state is reopened.
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