A new COVID-19 variant different from the United Kingdom strain was first found in other countries and now has emerged in counties across California. It's been linked to multiple outbreaks in Santa Clara County, including one at Kaiser San Jose Medical Center, health officials said Sunday.
The state is working with the Centers for Disease Control and local health departments to learn more about the variant and determine how it spreads.
On Sunday night, health officials confirmed that the new COVID-19 variant has been tied to a recent deadly outbreak at Kaiser Permanente in San Jose, which began around Christmas and grew to at least 90 cases.
“The fact that this variant was identified in several large outbreaks in our county is a red flag and must be investigated further,” said Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody. “This virus continues to mutate and adapt, and we cannot let down our guard. This news underscores the need for everyone to follow all prevention measures and get vaccinated as soon as they are offered the vaccine.”
A state health official said that it is common for variants of viruses to be found, and that the state is working with federal, local and university partners to better understand the variant known as 452R.
This is not the first variant of COVID-19 to be discovered. It was first identified last year in other countries and states. Another variant, B.1.1.7, was first detected in the United Kingdom, health experts said.
The new strain was rare until recently, health officials said. It was first discovered in Denmark in March, and it was also found in Michigan around that same time. In May, it was discovered in Alameda County.
In addition to Santa Clara County, the 452R variant has been detected in Humboldt, Lake, Los Angeles, Mono, Monterey, Orange, Riverside, San Francisco, San Bernardino, San Diego and San Luis Obispo counties.
Health officials said that the new variant does raise the concern that there might be some impact on the vaccine, but that more research needs to be done to determine if this is the case.