San Diego man tests positive for new, more contagious UK variant of COVID-19

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Demonstrators protest during a "Freedom Rally" against Stay-At-Home Directives on April 18, 2020 in San Diego, California.
  • A variant of the coronavirus first detected in the UK has now been found in Southern California, officials said Wednesday.
  • A 30-year-old San Diego man was confirmed this morning to have the new variant, which is believed to be more contagious.
  • "Because there is no travel history, we do not believe this is an isolated case in San Diego County," San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said at a press conference.
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A new, likely more contagious variant of the coronavirus is spreading among the community in Southern California amid a surge in COVID-19 that has overwhelmed local hospitals.

At a press conference on Wednesday, San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said a 30-year-old man had tested positive on December 29 for the variant, first known to have spread in the United Kingdom.

The man has not been to the UK, he noted.

"Because there is no travel history, we do not believe this is an isolated case in San Diego County," Fletcher said.

The new variant is believed to be far more contagious than what has previously spread across the United States. It is not, however, seen as more dangerous to those infected, nor is it believed to be resistant to vaccination.

According to San Diego County public health officials, the man infected with the UK variant, known as B117, became symptomatic on December 27.

"We confirmed it at 3 a.m. this morning," Dr. Kristian Andersen, a professor at the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at Scripps Research, said at the press conference.

"It was only a question of when," Anderson said of the first known case of the UK variant in California. While not yet as prevalent as other variants of the virus, "We know there are more," he said. "We don't know how many."

The news comes as San Diego hospitals are reporting that they are running out of space in their morgues to hold those dying from COVID-19. Hospitals in nearby Los Angeles, meanwhile, are running out of oxygen to treat those in their over-capacity ICUs.

The first known US case of the variant was detected on Tuesday, a 20-something man in Colorado also testing positive despite no history of recent travel to the UK.

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