New COVID-19 Variant Detected in Two UC Berkeley Students

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First it was detected in the United Kingdom, and now a more transmissible variant of the coronavirus has shown up in two University of California, Berkeley students.

“We know that it’s out there and it’s really important for people to be super careful,” said Dr. Stacia Wyman, one of the U.C. Berkeley scientists who discovered the variant. “They are two people who knew each other who traveled abroad and returned to the U.S. and became symptomatic and came into the health center and got tested.”

Wyman said they are in quarantine and believes they have not been on campus, except for testing, so she doesn’t believe it has spread.

Another variant discovered by scientists is a relatively new California variant that’s sweeping through the state and it could be more infectious. Which brings up another concern -- people getting infected more than once.

“For that variant we saw a reinfection which makes me worry because the immunity you get by having it once may not quite be working for the newer variant,” said Wyman.

U.C. Berkeley experienced a spike in the number of students with COVID-19 that prompted administrators to order students currently living in campus dorms to stay inside to help prevent the spread.

“Students living in the dorms are getting tested twice a week. And it’s because of that surveillance testing program that we are able to identify cases before they become uncontrollable outbreaks,” said Wyman.

In June, there was a reported outbreak traced to an off-campus party but Dr. Wyman said the variant there disappeared.  

Councilman Rigel Robinson said now is not the time to kick back.

“Our vaccine rollout is accelerating rapidly. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, that doesn’t mean we can let down our guard,” he said.

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