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Questions surrounding the California variant

UCSF researchers believe it is more contagious.
Posted at 6:24 PM, Feb 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-24 23:32:17-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- The so-called California variant is here and spreading, according to researchers at UC San Francisco.

While more studies need to be done, Dr. Charles Chiu—an infectious disease specialist at UCSF--has been studying it since he first detected it at the end of last year.

“These results are quite concerning. It suggests that we have identified the emergence of a new variant that is spreading very rapidly in California and also, that appears to be more infectious,” Dr. Chiu told ABC News.

Wednesday afternoon, the medical director for the county’s Epidemiology and Immunization Services addressed the new variant. Dr. Eric McDonald said roughly 30 to 40 percent of COVID-19 cases seen in the county likely have this variant. He said it is not clear yet if this one is more contagious than the others, but there is a silver lining.

“It’s gratifying to know that the overall numbers of cases are going down, so even if it is a little more contagious than the other ones that are circulating in the community, the take home message is the same,” Dr. McDonald said.That includes continued practice of social distancing, washing your hands, and wearing masks.

“We should remember that viruses do mutate, this is what they do. It's not unexpected, but we do need more evidence and more data on this particular variant,” said Dr. Abi Olulade with Sharp Rees-Stealy when asked about the California variant.

Dr. Gary Pace added it is not on the CDC’s list of variants of concern yet, like the UK and South African variants.

Dr. Pace is the public health officer in Lake County and also a physician consulting with the San Diego American Indian Health Center. He advises everyone to be aware of these variants, especially this latest one.

“I think it's a worrisome development,” Dr. Pace said. “It does seem to be spreading quite a bit. This new form of the virus seems to spread more aggressively than the older form, so we have to be even more careful with the masking. “We have to be even more careful with the social distancing.”

Both Dr. Pace and Dr. Olulade emphasize that vaccinations will help with fighting this virus, even with the numerous variants.