Los Angeles Officials Trying To Determine if Increase in COVID-19 Cases Is Due To Mutated Strain

People wait in line to check-in near a sign pointing to a COVID-19 testing area in the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). California.
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The end of the year brought a mutant strain of COVID-19 that recently raised its head in the UK and could potentially be the cause of a recent surge in coronavirus cases in California.
This weekend, an impressive 225,818 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the US, with worrying spikes especially on the West Coast. In Los Angeles, the average number of daily cases was recorded at nearly 14,000 per day.
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The surge in infections has been so explosive that LA officials are now testing samples of the virus on new patients to see if they can find evidence of the new strain of COVID-19, which UK scientists say is over 70 percent more could be transferable.
From the Los Angeles Times:
LA County's director of public health Barbara Ferrer said a public health laboratory has started gene sequencing to test virus samples collected in LA County, but it will take about a week to complete.
COVID-19 has spiraled out of control in Los Angeles County and other parts of California, overwhelming hospitals and killing more people every day. On Thursday, L.A. County had the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in a single day: 140.
The spread has been so rapid since Thanksgiving, when many families defied public health guidelines and gathered in large groups, some wondered if anything had changed about the virus. Officials believe the spike was made worse by holiday gatherings but are also concerned about other factors, including people shopping.
The CDC says that starting Monday, people traveling to the US from the UK will be required to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test before being allowed to board flights. Given the prolonged journeys many people made during the pandemic, it's not difficult to imagine that the new strain has already been brought to American shores from across the Atlantic.
Scientists in the UK say there is no evidence that the new strain causes a higher mortality rate or that it cannot be treated with the coronavirus vaccines currently in circulation.
California Health Secretary Dr. However, Mark Ghaly told the LA Times that the strain may be more likely to infect people who are exposed to it.
"The new, mutated COVID virus appears to be a little tighter and easier to bind and enter the cells of the human body than our current COVID virus, which we have here mainly in California and the United States," he said.
Countries across Europe have also introduced restrictions on travelers from the UK after officials released news of the new mutated strain last week, saying it may be to blame for 60% of new COVID-19 infections in the UK.

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