Genome sequencing maps San Diego spread of COVID-19, helps control outbreaks

U.S. records 1 millionth confirmed case of the coronavirus
Posted at 7:44 PM, Nov 12, 2020

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Local research organizations and San Diego County are teaming with the CDC to expand the genome sequencing of COVID-19. That data gives county leaders important information to drive decision-making to help slow and control the spread of the virus.

“The virus is constantly evolving and trying to figure out the best way to spread through our population. And is it does that, it changes a little bit,” said Dr. Louise Laurent a professor at UC San Diego, which is part of the team, along with Scripps Research.

Laurent says that studying changes in the virus can help identify which cases are connected to each other and which are not. The county can use that information to understand what measures are working, where there are significant outbreaks, and whether new measures are needed to stop those outbreaks.

The county’s top epidemiologist, Dr. Eric McDonald, tells ABC 10News that the data shows that through testing and contract tracing, efforts to control outbreaks have generally been effective.

“It looks like many of the instances of individuals who are infected don’t result in too many other infections. We don’t have lots of big clusters of the same exact strain,” McDonald said.

The data also shows that while the restrictions and actions taken by the county have been effective in controlling outbreaks, COVID-19 continues to spread in San Diego through travel.

“What we found is that San Diego has been hit many different times and viruses from other places have come to San Diego,” Laurent said. “We don’t want to be an isolated place. We want to interact, right? We’re just that kind of place. It makes us vibrant. It makes us an interesting place to be. But that also makes us vulnerable.”

The research team recently received a $2.5 million contract from the CDC to expand its work.