More Contagious? Here’s What You Need to Know About the Mutating Virus Now in California

As California continues to ride its worst wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, public health officials have more unsettling news: Six cases of a worrisome, potentially more infectious new coronavirus variant have been detected in California.

The new strain, first detected in the United Kingdom, also has been seen in Colorado and Florida and 33 other countries.

Last week, San Diego County reported it had identified the new variant, called B.1.1.7, in a 30-year-old man with no travel history.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the discovery in a live streamed event with Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading voice in the pandemic.

Over the weekend, San Diego county health officials reported three additional cases.

Fauci said this news was expected, since international travel is ongoing and viruses generally mutate. “RNA viruses, they make a living out of mutating,” he said. “The more you replicate the more you mutate.”

However, the lack of travel history in the San Diego case is an indicator that the new form of the virus is circulating among the community, health officials there said. By today, the number of cases with the new variant had grown to six—four in San Diego, with one hospitalized, and two in San Bernardino, the governor announced.

“What’s really important is that detecting this lineage here doesn’t really change what we need to do other than we need to do it better,” Dr. Kristian Andersen, an infectious disease and genomics expert at Scripps Research in San Diego, said in a news conference. That includes wearing masks and maintaining social distance.

Here’s what Californians need to know about the new coronavirus strain.

How was it discovered?

The new virus variant was first reported by England’s public health agency following a surge of cases in the southeastern part of the country. The first two samples were discovered in Kent and in London in September.

While mutations in viruses are common, this particular strain stood out because it carries more genetic changes than is typical, according to researchers.

What’s the concern with this coronavirus variant?

Public health officials say the new strain seems to be more easily transmitted than the standard form of the virus.

This means people who are exposed are more likely to become infected.

According to health officials in the United Kingdom, evidence shows that infection is growing more rapidly in geographical areas where this variant is found. A study from The Centre for the Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases in London shows this particular strain is 56 percent more transmissible. The study is still being peer-reviewed.

As Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s health secretary, recently explained it: “For Covid to enter a human cell, it needs to bind to a receptor, a sort of front door on a human cell,” he said. “And the new, mutated Covid virus seems to bind a little tighter, a little more easily and enter the cell of the human body easier than our current Covid virus.”

It remains unclear how this mutant form of the virus has contributed to the current surge in California. Officials have said its prevalence here is still likely low.

On Dec. 21, Ghaly said that California had been checking thousands of specimens daily over the last month, looking for mutations. “We’re concerned because of the unknowns,” he said. “We’re concerned that we aren’t sure how this impacts the broad-scale efforts to contain and mitigate the virus as it exists now.”

What is California doing in response?

The California Department of Public Health said health care providers are currently collecting specimens for genetic sequencing, and the state is analyzing samples suspected of being variant strains. “As variants and mutations are found, that information is used to inform public health decisions and critical information is shared with the public,” the agency said in an email.

How widespread is the new strain?

After the new variant was detected in the United Kingdom,  some 40 countries restricted travel from the UK. The variant has since been reported in FranceJapan, Spain, Sweden and Canada among other countries. The first known U.S. case, in a Colorado National Guardsman in his 20s, was reported Dec. 30.

Two variants that share some mutations with the UK variant also have been reported in South Africa and Nigeria, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We know there’s more. We don’t know how many,”  said Andersen, the infectious disease expert in San Diego. “Its prevalence for now is relatively low.”

Will it make me more sick?

Right now, there’s no evidence that this new Covid variant has a higher fatality rate or causes more severe illness than the currently predominant strain, according to the CDC. A recent UK government study compared patients infected with the new variant to those with the predominant strain and found no statistically significant differences in severity of illness, deaths or reinfection. Scientists around the world are still studying the UK variant, however, and more answers may come soon.

Will currently authorized vaccines protect against this new strain?

Scientists believe they will. Fauci told Newsom last week that the variant “doesn’t seem to evade the protection that’s afforded by the antibodies that are induced by vaccines.”

But scientists are testing the variant against the currently authorized vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna.

The CEO of AstraZeneca, which is developing another Covid-19 vaccine candidate, told the London Times that the company’s scientists believe the vaccine will protect against the new variant. But some scientists believe it’s possible that the UK variant, or future variants, may prove tougher for vaccines to overcome.

CalMatters Covid-19 coverage, translation and distribution is supported by generous grants from the Blue Shield of California Foundation, the California Wellness Foundation and the California Health Care Foundation.



    Interesting study of “Contract Tracing”

    ~82% of all transmission are, or what you are forced to do:

    74% household transmission
    8% Healthcare delivery

    All the things we are not allowed to do that is destroying America right now, a totla of 3.46%:
    1.43% Restaurant and Bars
    0.69% Church
    0.49% Elementary
    0,46% High School
    0.19% Middle School
    0.14% Hair and Personal Care
    0.06% Childcare

    You are 23x more likely to get Rona at home than putting your kids in school, going to church, going out to eat, getting your nails done


    Inconveniently that means your stay-at-home lockdowns are actually the killing grandma, not some fool without a mask at the grocery store.

    You, all of you coronabros, are idiots and killers.

    This is the problem with one-sided propaganda sites like SJI, SJS, NYT, Mercury news, MSNBC, etc.

    You politicized this virus with no data and misleading communications from the WHO and CDC to turn the population against each other. And now you’ve killed grandma.

  2. > Six cases of a worrisome, potentially more infectious new coronavirus variant have been detected in California.

    > The new strain, first detected in the United Kingdom, also has been seen in Colorado and Florida and 33 other countries.

    Well DUH!

    Viruses spread. It’s what viruses do.

    Looks like Gavin Newsom’s science-based data-driven business-crushing pandemic policies aren’t doing squat.

    The guy should probably be recalled.

    Unfortunately, recall won’t be too much of a problem for Governor Gavin.

    Dominion Voting Systems will probably keep him in office no matter what the voters say.

  3. > Officials have said its prevalence here is still likely low.

    Prediction: the prevalence will soon be high.

    Does anyone want to take a bet?

    Lockdown tighter. Expand social distancing to 25 feet. Crush more businesses.

    Still, the prevalence will soon be high.

  4. > What is California doing in response?

    > As variants and mutations are found, that information is used to inform public health decisions

    “And our public health decision is still: ‘there’s nothing we can do”.

    > and critical information is shared with the public,”

    “Dear Public; Here’s some critical information: ‘there’s nothing we can do'”

  5. > Interesting study of “Contract Tracing”

    ~82% of all transmission are, or what you are forced to do:

    –All the things we are not allowed to do that is destroying America right now, a totla of 3.46%:

    Excellent observation, Mr. Kulak.

    You deserve an extra scoop of swill in your supper dish.


    I don’t see a link anywhere. But to try to claim out of date or un-scientific is a joke. There is no science that says locking up everyone at home stops the spreading. And any study prior to 2019 says masks are just a courtesy.

    Actually this study, which the King of NY sites, points to a different conclusion. Which makes sense, air volume and UV light makes being outside intrinsically safer. Locking people up in their homes concentrates viral load and allows the virus to be protected from the sun.

    All of this lock-down and closing the churches, restaurants and schools is a logical conclusion, there simply is not enough numbers to prove it works scientifically. Now there is plenty of evidence quarantine of sick people work, but that is not what is going on.

  7. I wrote a reply, but the SJI squirrels ate it.

    Bottom line, if you are claiming any of these decisions are based on real science you are a joke.

    Even the WHOI says lock downs don’t work. All these “measures” are induced based on doing “something” rather than “nothing.”

  8. What’s a real new source anyway?


    You think any large news outlet isn’t bought and paid for and intentionally hopelessly biased?

    And you can lie to yourself and say scientific sources are valid, but those too stink of financial and political bias, which these days are the same thing.


    no link to the study :(

    but plenty of spin…

    and talk about an unscientific statement:

    The governor explained the rise in household gathering spread by the fact that other indoor establishments have been closed. “In many ways, you can understand what happened. You close bars, you close restaurants, you close theaters, you close stadiums, you close mass gatherings. Where do people go? They go home… Compound that by the holiday season.”

    That is not evidence home is safer than being outside. It could very well be being outside is just safer.

  10. “I cannot prove it, but I still believe that we had the chance to really weaken COVID early on. Especially when the infection rates were improving so much prior to summer. Please tell me you agree with this?”

    Not really. The United States is complicated by design and a free nation. States do have a lot of resources and they have almost 100% of control within the state. It my observation much of the problem was this virus was politicized. And I outline that below. However, the region that is most comparable demographically, economically, in terms of transparency, climate is Europe. If Trump and the US government is so bad how did it do compared to Europe, with its almost ubiquitous National Healthcare?

    EU cases: 15,857,298 deaths: 376,891
    US cases: 22,049,452 deaths: 371,465

    I can not pull from the same data source, because they no longer make it easy to find aggregate EU numbers. Another subtle roadblock. Your idea of locking people into their homes, I guess China style, is not realistic. Look at California, one of the more stringent laws and the largest problems. In my opinion one cause is there have been so many lies and politicization of this:

    Misleading statements on human to human spread.

    Misleading statements on asymptomatic spread.

    Misleading statements on surface contract spreading.

    Misleading statements on mask utility.

    15 day flattening the curve promise in March that is turning into a 15 month lockdown.

    No real consideration on the vast differences in how this affects different age groups and preconditions, but constant talk on how it is disproportionally worse for blacks and latinos.

    Misleading statements on herd immunity, 30%, no its 60%, no its 80-85%, herd immunity? – okay Trumptard – there is no such thing as herd immunity, you made that up.

    “Where the tests? Trump is blocking all the testing!” but no discussion on how useful those tests are, false positives and false negatives. Or how we were supposed to have 100Ms of test for a novel virus in storage.

    School lockouts, business lockouts, rent cancellation, taxes still due, bills still due, mortgage still due.

    Censorship of inquiring on or discussing the source of Corona, man made or naturally occurring.

    Covering up by the media on missteps by state officials but 100% blame on Trump, most notably the Cuomo Nursing Home coverup.

    “Racism is a worse virus than corona”

    PCR is not a diagnostic tool, it is a forensic tool.

    Trump has the blood of 300,000 people on his hands, he’s killed more than Stalin and this is worse than Watergate.

    Any truth about how these vaccines are not really vaccines.

    It is the first mRNA based “vaccine” I am aware of, but little discussion on how dangerous that is.

    Straight up censorship on anyone asking any questions or expressing doubts about this, even scientists.

    So many lies, so much bs, so much economic devastation for what, based on what? Science? Please. They have no idea what to do scientifically, there is simply not enough information or studies to determine what works and if what they are doing is actually helping or hurting. They are simply covering their butt trying to do something rather than nothing, and if my memory serves me write, you’re an engineer, and we know there is no corrective action unless you know the root cause and tested so you aren’t making the problem worse.

    And you don’t know if forcing people to stay inside hasn’t made it worse.

  11. > When we DO overcome this crisis, if we do it right, we will come out stronger, more respectful to each other, and even have fully funded and arranged plans for not only a pandemic, but any other crisis we may have in the future4.

    “fully funded and arranged plans”?

    Military axiom: “No plan survives first contact with the enemy”.

    Military axiom #2: “Generals always plan to fight the last war”.

  12. From the New York Times, “As Coronavirus Mutates, the World Stumbles Again to Respond”, 1/9/2021:

    “…With the world stumbling in its vaccination rollout and the number of cases steeply rising to peaks that exceed those seen last spring, scientists see a pressing need to immunize as many people as possible before the virus evolves enough to render the vaccines impotent.

    ‘It’s a race against time,’ said Marion Koopmans, a Dutch virologist and a member of a World Health Organization working group on coronavirus adaptations.
    The vaccine alone will not be enough to get ahead of the virus: It will take years to inoculate enough people to limit its evolution. In the meantime, social distancing, mask-wearing and hand-washing — coupled with aggressive testing, tracking and tracing — might buy some time and avert devastating spikes in hospitalizations and deaths along the way. These strategies could still turn the tide against the virus, experts said.

    ‘We do know how to dial down the transmission of the virus by a lot with our behavior,’ said Carl T. Bergstrom, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Washington in Seattle. ‘We’ve got a lot of agency there.’…”

  13. One thing that’s been left out of the discussion of B.1.1.7 is why isn’t the UK being criticized for keeping it secret for months, just like China? They knew they had a new strain spreading in September, but didn’t report it to the world until December.

    That’s fairly analogous to China’s response: the disease was spreading at least by November, 2019, by December there were several undiagnosable pneumonia cases in the Wuhan hospital, but by last January Chinese researchers had published the complete RNA sequence of Covid-19.

    If the British had been honest about their new homegrown strain when it first showed up, the world could’ve banned trade and travel with the UK months earlier and been spared another pandemic of yet another novel coronavirus. But the UK government covered it up for months to protect their economy at the expense of world health.

  14. Silence! You will stay at home until we let you out. You will do as we say and wear a mask or you will not be allowed to buy food or water. You will not be allowed to work unless the State deems you to be essential and you will stand in line for your vaccine which we will decide to give you depending on how the State evaluates your worthiness. Now, get in line, keep your mouth shut and obey! You go to the right, you go to the left! You will wear the gold Star of Covid on your outer clothing at all times and the State will decide which business will be allowed to operate. Covid will never end! It will keep mutating until tyranny is achieved.

  15. > And they are going to have to find a way to market their services independently from Google and Apple.

    > They might just be out of business.

    What’s wrong with this picture, Mr. MBA.

    Executives of three or for large corporations can among themselves decide on some coordinated “business practices” that will put a competitor out of business, with no continuation alternatives, and harm the competitor’s owners and customers.

    Did your postmodernist business school teach you that oil cartels were bad but social media cartels are OK as long as they weren’t racist?

  16. Seems I have been censored, so let me try again.

    Depression and anxiety are not a bad emotion, they are evolutionary useful ones.

    It is how you are addressing your depression and anxiety that is the problem, not that you are in fact depressed.

    You are depressed, you are anxious, so your mind searches for external problems that you have no control over of for the root cause. This frustrates your depression. These emotions are your body informing you that YOU are going in the wrong direction or YOU have made a mistake in the past that needs to be resolved. Your body is far wiser than your conscious mind.

    If Trump gets hung in the town square, your depression will not stop. If people don’t get evicted, your depression will not stop. If your deck gets fixed, nothing will change. You fixing how you spend your time, what path you are on, what you let into your mind, who you let into your world, and fixing past ruined relationships is a far better medicine than trying to solve intractable problems you have no ability to solve.

    Reconciliation and gratitude are evolution’s treasure and are the result of understanding your depression. One synthesizes the other. Depression and anxiety are THEE gifts if you know how to read and use it.

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