UK and South African COVID variants found in Tulare County

The Sun-Gazette

Health and Human Services announced three new variants were found in the county, one is 50% more communicable

TULARE COUNTY – COVID-19 cases in Tulare County are as low as when the pandemic first began. But not all is good on the COVID front.

Last week the Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) announced there are three variants in the county that in some ways are more dangerous than the novel coronavirus. Tulare County Public Health Laboratory genomic sequencing results revealed the first two known cases of the U.K. variant (B.1.1.7) and the first known case of the South African variant (B.1.351). There is evidence that the U.K. variant may cause more severe disease, and both the U.K. and South African variants are estimated to be approximately 50% more infectious than other variants in circulation.

“Considering the national trend, we’ve been aware of the variants being present in our state as well as surrounding counties,” Tulare County Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Haught said. “We need to continue the important safety measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. Wear your mask or face covering securely, keep proper social distance, avoid crowds, especially indoors, wash your hands with soap and water, get tested, and get vaccinated.”

HHSA director, Tim Lutz said on The Sun-Gazette’s podcast last Friday that current vaccines still guard against the variant strains. But Lutz said that Easter weekend get together were still a concern.

“It is a huge concern for us to get these variants on the cusp of Easter weekend. And for us, it’s just that reminder that COVID is not gone. And our case rates are looking really good. We’re moving to the orange, we want to stay there,” Lutz said.

Lutz added that the variants have shows the virus is more severe and could lead to more hospitalizations.

Tulare County HHSA added in a press release last Friday how important it is for residents to continue to practice preventative measures to getting the virus.

“It is imperative that individuals experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 must contact their health care provider to get tested and speak with representatives from Tulare County Public Health when contacted. They are here to help you and assist with slowing the spread of these infectious variants,” the release stated.

Dr. Haught added in the press release as well that vaccinations are open to everyone over the age of 16.

“We are also focused on getting our rural communities vaccinated by the end of next month. I urge our residents to remain vigilant so that we can maintain our path to reopening while preventing transmission of infections to vulnerable family members and friends,” Dr. Haught stated

Additional information about tracking variants in California can be found here: www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/COVID-Variants.aspx. Information on the distribution of variants across the U.S. can be found at: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/variant-surveillance/variant-info.html.

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