In this file photo dated June 30, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom removes his face mask before giving an update during a visit to Pittsburg, California.
Rich Pedroncelli | AP
California health officials have identified the state’s first case of a new and contagious strain of Covid-19 that was originally discovered in the UK.
The patient is a 30-year-old San Diego County male who showed symptoms on Sunday, government officials confirmed Wednesday.
“I don’t think Californians should feel like this is anything strange. This is expected,” said White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, on Wednesday during a live Q&A session with California Governor Gavin Newsom. Fauci said other states are likely to identify their own cases of the new strain soon.
San Diego county supervisor Nathan Fletcher said the patient was tested for Covid-19 Tuesday morning. Because he had not traveled, state officials believe there are other cases of the new strain in the county, Fletcher said at a press conference after Newsom revealed the case.
Fletcher urged residents to follow public health instructions over the next few days to avoid further burdens on the county’s hospitals, which are “hugely burdened” by an onslaught of Covid-19 patients.
On Tuesday, Colorado health officials confirmed the first case of the B.1.1.7 variant of coronavirus. During a news conference Wednesday, Colorado Governor Jared Polis said the state is investigating a possible second case of the new tribe.
Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier Wednesday that the new tribe could put pressure on the country’s hospitals, which are already overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients.
Dr. Henry Walke, the agency’s Covid Incident Manager, said the new variant appears to be spreading “easier and faster than other strains”, but it doesn’t seem to make people sick or increase their risk of death.
A particularly worrying aspect of the Colorado case was that the patient had not traveled, “suggesting this variant was transmitted person-to-person in the United States,” Walke told reporters on a conference call.
Some good news: The new variant doesn’t appear to affect the vaccines’ effectiveness or make diagnosis difficult with existing tests, Fauci told Newsom. The UK has also found that people who were already infected with previous strains of Covid-19 do not appear to be re-infected with this new variant.
Researchers have yet to determine whether the new strain may be resistant to monoclonal antibody treatment, which has successfully helped some patients recover from the disease, Fauci said. Unlike vaccines, which trigger an immune response that attacks different parts of the virus, monoclonal antibodies target a very specific component, according to the country’s leading infectious disease expert.
Monoclonal antibodies have shown promising benefits if the virus is detected early enough. President Donald Trump attributed Regeneron’s treatment for feeling better “immediately” when he was infected and finally hospitalized with Covid-19 in early October.
“That’s what we know about it now, but we’re following this extremely carefully,” Fauci said, adding that they are investigating the exposure at the National Institutes of Health and a number of laboratories across the country.
– CNBC’s Will Feuer and Amanda Macias contributed to this report.