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COVID-19 U.K. Variant Confirmed In Los Angeles County

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Coronavirus COVID-19 Los Angeles County

The first United Kingdom (U.K.) COVID-19 variant case has been confirmed in Los Angeles County on Saturday.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has confirmed the first case of COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7, the same variant discovered in the United Kingdom, in an individual who recently spent time in Los Angeles County, according to the department.

“The individual is a male who traveled to Oregon, where he is currently isolating. The variant was confirmed by the University of Washington,” public health officials said Saturday.

Public Health has confirmed 253 new deaths and 14,669 new cases of confirmed COVID-19 on Saturday. To date, Public Health has identified 1,003,923 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County and a total of 13,741 deaths.

“Although this is the first confirmed case of the U.K. variant in Los Angeles County, Public Health believes that it is already spreading in the community,” the department said in a statement.

Public Health is continuing to test samples. Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time.

“Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear,” the statement said. “Other times, new variants emerge and persist. Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been documented in the United States and globally during this pandemic.”

In the U.K., the variant B.1.1.7 emerged with an unusually large number of mutations. The variant spreads more easily and quickly than other variants. Currently, there is no evidence that it causes more severe illness or increased risk of death.

“The presence of the U.K. variant in Los Angeles County is troubling, as our healthcare system is already severely strained with more than 7,500 people currently hospitalized. Our community is bearing the brunt of the winter surge, experiencing huge numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths, five-times what we experienced over the summer. This more contagious variant makes it easier for infections to spread at worksites, at stores, and in our homes,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of public health in a statement.

This variant was first detected in September 2020 and is now highly prevalent in London and Southeast England. It has since been detected in numerous countries around the world, including the United States and Canada.

The Centers for Disease Control conducts routine analysis of SARS-CoV-2 genetic sequence data to support public health response. The DPH lab is also regularly analyzing specimens for variants, including the U.K. variant, and, to date, has not identified other cases linked to this specific variant.

The presence of the U.K. variant in Los Angeles County means virus transmission can happen more easily and residents must more diligently follow the safety measures put in place to prevent additional cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

This includes wearing a face-covering properly over your nose and mouth, physically distancing, and not gathering with people from outside your household. With community transmission at an all-time high, staying home as much as possible is the best protection. The same strategies that we’ve been using to help slow COVID-19 will only be effective in slowing spread of the U.K. variant strain of COVID-19 if they are used by everyone all of the time.

Individuals infected with the U.K. variant will test positive for COVID-19 with current SARS-CoV-2 tests. However, to distinguish the variant strain from the traditional strain, laboratories can perform look for certain gene patterns and report to the local public health department for confirmation.

“We are in the midst of a public health emergency so please do everything you can to protect yourselves and those you love. If you are required to work outside your home, make sure that your workplace adheres to all the mandatory safety directives; there should be no crowding anywhere, protective gear and face coverings provided as required, and infection control measures fully implemented,” Ferrer said. “For those who can, this is the time to stay away from all non-household members, and, when you must be around others, to always keep your distance and wear a face covering. Wash your hands every hour and wipe down frequently touched surfaces multiple times a day. We need to use the tools at hand to keep each other from becoming infected.”

The Board of Supervisors and Public Health meet regularly to discuss the response to COVID-19 in L.A. County. At this time, the current Safer at Home Health Officer Order (HOO) remains in effect with no changes. Public Health teams continue inspecting establishments and ensuring compliance with safety measures in the HOO including metering and occupancy requirements.

There are currently 7,597 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19, and 22% of these people are in the ICU.

Testing results are available for more than 5,190,051 individuals with 18% of all people testing positive. Upon further investigation, 674 cases and one death reported earlier were not L.A. County residents.

Coronavirus

California Keeps Mask Mandate Until June 15 Despite CDC Guidelines

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CDC Mask Guidelines

California public health officials announced Monday the state is keeping the current mask mandate until June 15 despite updated federal guidance for those fully vaccinated.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, Health and Human Services secretary, said California is expected to modify the mask mandate in June when the Blueprint for a Safer Economy is no longer in effect.

On Thursday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky said those who are fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physically distancing.

Ghaly added the state wants to give local governments and businesses more time to implement the relaxed mask rules. 

“This is in no way saying that the science or direction of the CDC’s guidelines is wrong. It’s just giving us some extra time to have this implemented with a high degree of integrity,” Ghaly said.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger sent a letter Friday asking the state to align with federal guidelines on face coverings.

“The State of California now boasts the lowest COVID-19 positivity rate in the nation. Yet, the state still maintains some of the strictest COVID-19 restrictions in the Country,” Barger wrote.

Los Angeles County cannot loosen its existing mandates until the state regulations are updated, according to the supervisor. 

Major retailers, including Walmart, Trader Joe’s, Starbucks and Costco, have dropped their mask requirement for fully vaccinated customers.

In order to be considered fully vaccinated, residents must wait two weeks after their second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or the first dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the CDC.

Anyone 12 years and older living or working in Los Angeles County can now get vaccinated. For more information, visit here.

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City Of Los Angeles Expands COVID-19 Vaccination Site Hours To Increase Access

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COVID19 Vaccine Los Angeles County 2 (1)

Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a series of steps to expand COVID-19 vaccine access among Angelenos at Los Angeles-City run sites on Monday.

 Efforts include extending hours to 8 p.m. at nine fixed City-run sites; administering all three approved vaccines at mass vaccination centers; and offering doses appointment-free across Los Angeles. These increases in operations come on the heels of the announcement by public health professionals that 12 to 15-year-olds are eligible to get vaccinated.

“We can end this pandemic, restore public health, and rebuild our economy, but only if we can put vaccines within reach of every Angeleno, regardless of income, zip code, or neighborhood,” said Garcetti in a statement. “With expanded hours and growing eligibility, we are doing everything we can to reach residents who have yet to get vaccinated — and make it as easy and safe as possible to deliver doses across our communities.”  

To get the vaccines into more arms across Los Angeles, the City eliminated the appointment requirement and piloted evening hours earlier this month. After seeing a 200% increase in demand for evening vaccinations over the last two weeks, the City will extend hours until 8 p.m. at all of its permanent locations, except for Dodger Stadium, which will remain open until 4 p.m. 

All fixed sites will operate from Monday to Saturday, with the exception of Dodger Stadium, which will permanently close on Thursday, May 20. 

Most mobile locations will operate between Tuesday and Saturday from the hours of 9 am to 3 p.m., except for two-night clinics at South L.A. Wetlands Park and Sylmar Recreation Center, which will run until 9 p.m. 

Angelenos who visit any fixed site with extended hours will be able to choose from any of the three vaccines currently available: Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.

This week, City vaccination sites will have the capacity to administer roughly 250,000 doses to Angelenos across 10 permanent sites and each of the Mobile Outreach for Vaccine Equity (MOVE) clinics.

Equity remains a key focus of the City’s vaccination program. The MOVE initiative delivers doses directly to neighborhoods most impacted by the pandemic, administering 111,719 so far. This week, the City will deploy 10 mobile teams, serving residents in South L.A., East L.A. and parts of the Valley, including South Park, Chesterfield Square/Harvard Park, Vermont Vista, Watts, Boyle Heights, Wilmington, Van Nuys, Sylmar and others. 

Pre-registration is not required, but Angelenos who wish to plan ahead can visit here to sign up or find the nearest location. 

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Supervisor Barger Urges State To Align With CDC Mask Guidelines

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Supervisor Kathryn Barger sent a letter Friday asking the state to align with federal guidelines on face coverings for those who are fully vaccinated. 

Barger urged Governor Gavin Newsom to modify California’s mask mandate to follow the protocols announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday.

“As you know, the Centers for Disease Control has announced that it is now safe for fully vaccinated Americans to not wear masks or practice physical distancing in most situations,” Barger wrote. “Additionally, the State of California now boasts the lowest COVID-19 positivity rate in the nation. Yet, the State still maintains some of the strictest COVID-19 restrictions in the Country.”

Los Angeles County cannot loosen its existing mandates until the state regulations are updated, according to the supervisor. 

Barger said it is appropriate for the California Department of Public Health and the Division of Occupational Safety and Health to change the existing distancing and masking requirements in alignment with the new guidelines. 

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a White House briefing on Thursday anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physically distancing.

“If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic,” Walensky said. “We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy.”

In order to be considered fully vaccinated, residents must wait two weeks after their second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or the first dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the CDC.

“Los Angeles County is committed to implementing safe, sensible directives that still protect our recovery and prevent regression to high positive case rates,” Barger wrote. “We especially want to ensure protections for workers, particularly those who work indoors, including on public transportation and in schools, large venues, and congregate housing such as jails, shelters and skilled nursing facilities.”

The L.A. County Department of Public Health continues to offer vaccinations without appointments at County-run vaccination sites while supply lasts. 

Anyone 12 years and older living or working in Los Angeles County can now get vaccinated. For more information, visit here.

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