A new, likely more contagious strain of COVID-19 has been found in a patient in California, authorities confirm. However, the nation’s top disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, reminded residents that the discovery of the so-called “UK strain” in the state is not a reason for panic or shock.
“I don’t think Californians should feel that this is something odd,” Dr. Fauci said during a live streamed conversation with Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday. “This is something that’s expected.”
“To all my Californian friends, and I have many, they should realize this is an RNA virus,” Fauci said. “RNA viruses, they make a living out of mutating. They love to mutate.”
The UK strain is thought to be “stickier,” or more easily spread between individuals, but is not currently believed to in itself be substantially more dangerous than other, more pervasive strains currently spreading in the region.
“There’s no indication at all that it increases the virulence, and by virulence I mean the ability to make you sick or kill you,” Fauci said during the conversation. “It doesn’t seem to make it more strong in that regard. In addition, it doesn’t seem to evade the protection from the antibodies induced by vaccines.”
KESQ reports that the patient carrying the UK strain is a 30-year-old man living in San Diego, with no known travel history. Los Angeles public health officials say that, as of today, there have been no confirmed cases within the county.
A new strain’s arrival does underscore the importance of following public health protocols, limiting travel, and avoiding exposure whenever possible. Officials have warned for months that the winter season would be the worst stage of the pandemic, regardless of a new strain, and current trends suggest that the current surge is far from over.