West Coast Covid-19 variant now dominant strain in California – Deadline

As California Governor Gavin Newsom gave one of his regular updates on Covid-19 last Wednesday, he said he was surprised at “something not many people pay attention to.” That “something” is the growth of the so-called West Coast variant of Covid-19.

Newsom and its surrogates have, to their credit, given regular updates on the growth of the variant. Deadline reported that CA’s director of health and human services, Dr Mark Ghaly, reported in early February that the state had discovered 1,000 instances of the West Coast variant, which is actually two similar variants called B.1.427 / B.1.429 or CAL2.0C.

The following week, Newsom reported that the number of identified B.1.427 / B.1.429 cases had increased by 20% to 1,200. Last week, when he said he was surprised at the lack of coverage, the governor noted a 50% jump to 1,834 cases. But those numbers were only a fraction of the actual number of cases. Genomic testing is needed to identify new variants, and it’s expensive.

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By early January, the state had administered more than 30 million Covid-19 tests. Of those tens of millions, only about 7,000 had been genomically analyzed, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Los Angeles County genomically analyzes only a few dozen samples each day.

According to the author of a new study reported by the Los Angeles Times, Dr. Charles Chiu, virologist and professor of laboratory medicine at UCSF, claims that CAL2.0C has increased to account for more than half of the cases in the State and could account for 90% of cases at the end of March.

Worse yet, Dr Chiu told the New York Times on Tuesday that infections of the variant produce a viral load double that of other variants. He also seems more cunning at evading the immune system. As a result, Chiu said, cases caused by the variant are doubling every 18 days.

While the most contagious UK variant of the virus is also spreading in the state, it appears to be doing so more slowly. But the two could merge.

From LAT:

The UK and California variants each come with enhanced abilities, and the likelihood of them being able to circulate in the same population raises the specter of a return to infections and deaths, Chiu said. It also opens the door to a “nightmare scenario”: for the two viruses to meet in one person, exchange mutations and create an even more dangerous strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

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