Maui Coronavirus Updates

2nd Case in US of COVID-19 Variant found in California

December 30, 2020, 3:38 PM HST
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Dr. Fauci photo via NIAID

California Governor Gavin Newsom said a case of the COVID-19 variant previously identified in the United Kingdom, has been confirmed in Southern California.

The information was shared in a Facebook LIVE conversation between Gov. Newsom and Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The news comes a day after the first known case of the variant in the US was reported in a patient in Colorado.

Dr. Fauci said he’s not surprised that California has a case, and suspects that more reports will surface in other states due to the prominence in the UK and indirect travel through other countries. “I don’t think that the Californians should feel that this is something odd. This is something that’s expected.”

“There’s a lot that we know about it because our British colleagues have been studying it carefully; and there are things that we will soon learn more about them in a more definitive way, literally as the days go by,” he said.

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Dr. Fauci said mutant strain is more efficient at transmissibility than the standard virus. “Namely, it’s able to bind receptors on cells better, and therefore is transmitted better,” he said.

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According to Dr. Fauci, there’s no indication that it increases virulence. In addition, he explained that the new variant does not seem to evade the protection that’s afforded by the antibodies that are induced by vaccines.

“The other thing that the’ve noted in the UK is that people who have been infected don’t seem to get reinfected by this–which means that the immunity that is given to you when you get infected is protective against this particular strain. And thus far, it doesn’t seem to have any impacts on diagnostics, where you would miss it from a diagnostic standpoint,” said Dr. Fauci.

He said one of the things to keep an eye out for is that “since these are specific mutations, we want to make sure that they don’t evade the protection of certain of the monoclonal antibodies, because the monoclonal antibody is against a very specific component of the virus. Whereas, when you get vaccinated, the immune response that you make is called poly-clonal. Which means it’s against many different parts of the virus. So even through you have one part of the virus that’s changed, it is very likely that the other components of the vaccine induced response will protect you,” said Dr. Fauci.

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Dr. Fauci said that’s what’s known about the variant now, but health officials are following developments very closely.

Dr. Fauci further explained that this is an RNA virus. “The makeup of it is RNA. RNA viruses–they make a living out of mutating. They love to mutate. The more you replicate, the more you mutate… The overwhelming majority of mutations are irrelevant. They don’t have any impact on any important function of the virus. Every once in a while, you get a mutation that does impact a function of the virus. It appears, from what we’re learning from the UK and what we’ll prove here, is that this particular mutation does in fact make the virus better at transmitting from one person to another.”

The complete discussion is available here.

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