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California has announced its first confirmed case of the new and apparently more contagious variant of coronavirus, the second documented case in the United States in one day.

Governor Gavin Newsom announced the infection found in Southern California during an online conversation with Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“I don’t think Californians should think this is weird. It’s to be expected, ”Dr. Fauci said.

Newsom did not provide any other details about the infected person.

A nurse works in an ICU ward with a COVID-19 positive patient in Roseville, California, earlier this month. (AP)

The cases have raised questions about how the version circulating in England made it to the United States and whether it is too late to stop it now, and leading experts say it is probably already spreading to other parts of the United States.

“The virus is getting fitter and we are like a deer in the headlights,” warned Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Research Institute.

He pointed out that the United States does much less genetic sequencing of virus samples to discover variants than other developed nations, and thus was likely slow to detect this new mutation.

The two Guard members had been dispatched Dec. 23 to work at the Good Samaritan Society’s nursing home in the small town of Simla, in a mostly rural area outside Denver, said Dr. Rachel Herlihy. , state epidemiologist. They were among the six members of the Guard sent to the house.

People rub their cheeks at a COVID-19 testing site in the North Hollywood area of ​​Los Angeles. (AP)

Nasal swab samples taken from the two as part of the Guard’s routine coronavirus tests were sent to the state laboratory, which began looking for the variant after its spread in Britain was announced earlier this month, he said. Dr. Herlihy.

Samples from nursing home staff and residents are also being tested for the variant in the lab, but no evidence of it has been found so far, he said.

The confirmed case from Colorado, first announced Tuesday, is that of a man in his 20s who had not traveled recently, authorities said.

He has mild symptoms and is in isolation at his home near Denver, while the person with the suspected case is in isolation at a Colorado hotel while further genetic testing is done on his sample, authorities said.

The nursing home said it is working closely with the state and also hopes to start vaccines next week.

Several states, including California, Massachusetts and Delaware, are also testing suspected virus samples for the variant, said Dr. Greg Armstrong, who directs genetic sequencing at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

He said the CDC is working with a national laboratory that collects samples from across the country to broaden that search, with results expected in a few days.

An electron microscope image shows spherical particles of the new coronavirus, colored blue, from the first case of COVID-19 in the United States.
An electron microscope image shows spherical particles of the new coronavirus, colored blue, from the first case of COVID-19 in the United States. (AP)

Britain is seeing infections skyrocket and hospitalizations hit their highest levels on record. The variant has also been found in several other countries.

Scientists have found no evidence that it is more lethal or causes more severe disease, and they believe that the vaccines given now will be effective against it. But a faster-spreading virus could flood hospitals with seriously ill patients.

The overseas discovery prompted the CDC to issue rules on Christmas Day that require travelers arriving from Britain to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test. But U.S. health officials said the patient’s lack of travel history from Colorado suggests the new variant is already spreading in this country.

Dr. Topol said it is too late to ban travel.

“We are late in finding him. Colorado is probably one of the many places it has landed here, ”he said.

“It is everywhere. How can you ban travel from anywhere? “

The Good Samaritan Society’s call center is closed to the public. (AP)

Colorado public health officials are conducting contact tracing to determine its spread.

Researchers estimate the variant to be 50% to 70% more contagious, said Dr. Eric France, Colorado’s chief medical officer.

“Instead of just making two or three other people sick, you could actually give it to four or five people,” said Dr. France.

“That means we will have more cases in our communities. That number of cases will increase rapidly and, of course, with more cases there will be more hospitalizations. “

London and south-east England were put under strict lockdown measures earlier this month due to the variance, and dozens of countries banned flights from Britain.

France also briefly banned trucks from Britain before allowing them to return, provided drivers were tested for the virus.

It is common for viruses to undergo minor changes as they reproduce and move through a population.

The fear is that mutations will at some point be significant enough to defeat vaccines.

South Africa has also discovered a highly contagious variant of COVID-19 that is driving the country’s latest surge in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

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