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Mutated Coronavirus Strain Detected in San Diego County

The new strain, first identified in the U.K., appears to spread more easily than the standard coronavirus

A new, mutated strain of the coronavirus that was first identified in the United Kingdom has infected a 30-year-old man in San Diego with “no travel history,” county officials said on Wednesday.

“This individual does in fact have the U.K. variant strain of COVID-19. Because there is no travel history, we believe this is not an isolated case in San Diego County, and there are probably other strains, other cases of this same strain in San Diego County,” San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said at a Wednesday press conference.

Earlier on Wednesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom first revealed that the new coronavirus strain had been detected in Southern California — the first known case in California involving the mutated strain.

“Just an hour or so ago, we were informed that this new variant, this new strain that we’ve identified obviously from the United Kingdom … has been identified here in the state of California, in Southern California,” Newsom said during a virtual conversation with the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, Anthony Fauci.

Fauci said he was not “surprised” to hear that California had a case of the new strain, which appears to spread more easily than the “standard virus” that has been spreading in the U.S. all year.

Still, Fauci said there has not been any indication that the mutated strain is stronger when it comes to its ability to “make you sick or kill you.”

“It’s able to bind to the receptors on cells better and therefore is transmitted better. There’s no indication at all that it increases the virulence,” Fauci said. “It doesn’t seem to make it more strong in that regard. In addition, it doesn’t seem to evade the protection that’s afforded by the antibodies that are induced by vaccines.”

Fauci said he expects to see reports of the new coronavirus strain from other states soon. (The first reported case of the mutated strain in the U.S. was detected in Colorado on Tuesday.)

“If you have that much of a prominence of this in the U.K. with all the travel, not only directly to the United States but through other countries intermittently,” Fauci said, “I don’t think that the Californians should feel that this is something odd. This is something that’s expected.”