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LA Health Officials Confirm 5 Cases Of More Contagious UK COVID-19 Strain

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A pedestrian wearing his facemask walks past a boarded up Foreign Currency Exchange service in Los Angeles, California on November 30, 2020. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP)
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Los Angeles County health officials have now confirmed a total of five cases of the coronavirus strain originally detected in the United Kingdom.

That variant is much more contagious than the strain currently dominating the United States. A recent study confirmed CDC estimates, that cases caused by this newer strain could double about every 10 days.

County public health director Barbara Ferrer says that while L.A. has not seen clusters tied to the variant (like the ones spotted in San Diego County), it's likely that other mutated strains, including another that was recently found in South Africa, are circulating locally:

"We haven't seen the South Africa variant in any of the sequencing that we've done, but that doesn't mean it's not here. Which is why we're just saying to everyone, 'Assume it's here.'"

While both the Pfizer and Moderna versions of the COVID-19 vaccine are still effective against the U.K. variant, South African officials have paused distribution of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine because of concerns it's less effective against the local strain of the virus.
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The AstraZeneca vaccine has not yet been approved for use in the United States.

Ferrer also dismissed speculation that a more contagious variant was behind the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in L.A. County. She instead pointed to private gatherings and people not taking basic precautions over the holidays.

STRAIN DETECTED IN O.C.

Health officials in Orange County say a San Clemente man has tested positive for the U.K. strain. It's the first known case of the variant in Orange County.

Orange County Medical Director Doctor Matthew Zahn says the man did not travel outside the United States, so there are likely more cases in the area.

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He also said the case is not part of a larger outbreak and the patient did not experience serious illness.

County staff is working on contact tracing and testing the man's contacts.

A CLOSER LOOK AT LOCAL COVID-19 NUMBERS:

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