San Bernardino County health officials are warning people in and around Big Bear to exercise renewed caution and to skip indoor gatherings now that two more cases of the highly contagious COVID-19 variant known as B117 have been identified at the popular tourist destination.
“Cold weather combined with the Super Bowl and optimal ski conditions will tempt many people to gather indoors this weekend,” county health officer Dr. Michael A. Sequeira said in a press release Friday. “But the growing presence of this dangerous strain make it extremely important for everyone to avoid any situations that could lead to transmission of the virus.”
The mutation—which was discovered in the United Kingdom in December and spread to the U.S. within weeks—was first detected in Big Bear from samples taken from a local household on December 20. A member of that household had been in contact with a traveler who had returned from England on December 11 and started showing symptoms on December 14.
“Based on the information currently available, we know that the B117 variant seems to spread more easily and more quickly,” Sequeira said at the time. “Therefore, following all safe practices is more important than ever.”
The two new cases came to light in mid-January and were confirmed to be B117 last week. All four people diagnosed with the U.K. strain have since recovered, but Sequeira stresses that the threat remains.
“The situation in the Big Bear area illustrates how easily and innocently these types of transmissions can occur,” he said. “That is why social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands, and complying with health orders and guidance are so important to protecting our lives and the lives of those we love.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are currently more than 600 cases of the U.K. variant across 33 states, including 145 in California. Unfortunately, experts believe that number is going to rise dramatically as a new study finds that the number of B117 infections in the U.S. doubles about every ten days, bolstering the CDC’s prediction that the mutation will become the country’s dominant strain of COVID-19 by mid-March.