The Santa Cruz County Public Health Division is monitoring confirmed reports of Covid-19 cases involving variants found in Santa Cruz County, spokesman Jason Hoppin said in a press release Monday.
Two cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, known generally as the U.K. variant, have been identified in local patients. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is monitoring several mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which can carry elevated risk of infection and death.
“We expected these variants to arrive in our county eventually,” Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel said. “Our case numbers look very good right now. However, we must not let down our guard, and need to continue wearing masks and practicing social distancing while in public. A virus cannot mutate if it cannot replicate.”
Vaccines currently authorized for emergency use have been shown to maintain effectiveness against variants. In January, experts in the U.K. reported that this variant may be associated with an increased risk of death compared to other variant viruses, but more studies are needed to confirm this finding, according to the CDC. It has since been detected in many countries around the world. This variant was first detected in the U.S. at the end of December 2020.
State laboratories are conducting random testing of positive tests for evidence of variants (a California variant, known as B.1.427/B.1.429, appears to be circulating broadly within the state). UCSC’s genomics laboratory is also conducting testing for local evidence of Covid-19 variants, Hoppin said.
The first confirmed case was from a patient who tested positive for Covid-19 on Jan. 28. The second case tested positive on Feb. 28. Because of this, local residents should assume the B.1.1.7 variant is circulating in the community.
For more information on state monitoring of Covid-19 variants, click here.