Contra Costa finds first cases of U.K. COVID variant has arrived

Contra Costa County confirms first cases of U.K. COVID variant

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA — Laboratory results have revealed the first two known cases of the highly infectious U.K. variant (B.1.117) in Contra Costa County. The B.1.117 variant, dubbed the U.K. variant because it is believed to have originated in the United Kingdom, is more contagious than others and possibly more deadly.

“This is a reminder that even though COVID numbers are falling, we need to continue using all our tools to prevent another surge: wear masks in public, continue to physically distance, avoid both indoor and large gatherings, and get vaccinated when it’s your turn,” said Dr. Chris Farnitano, the County’s health officer.

Initial studies suggest the three COVID vaccines in the United States provide strong protection against the U.K. variant and others.

While these are the first confirmed cases of the U.K. variant in Contra Costa, Dr. Chris Farnitano, the County’s health officer, said there are likely many more in the community that have not been detected.

“We can’t say how widespread it is in Contra Costa, but it’s concerning,” Dr. Farnitano said.

The South African variant, another COVID variant of concern, has yet to be detected in Contra Costa, although Dr. Farnitano said we should assume it also circulating in California.

The presence of the U.K. variant was discovered as part of laboratory surveillance work during the pandemic. One local person infected with the U.K. variant began displaying common COVID-19 symptoms such as cough and muscles aches and was able to isolate at home. The other Contra Costa resident reported having multiple symptoms, including runny nose, cough, headache and loss of smell and taste.

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Karen Mitchoff is Contra Costa County District IV supervisor. Email questions or comments to Mitchoff at